Mine operator sues high school student for criminal defamation

The operator of a controversial gold mine in Loei Province in Isan, Thailand’s Northeast, has sued a high school student for defamation.

On Sunday, 13 December 2015, Wanphen Khunna, a grade 10 student from Si Songkhram School and her family, natives of Khao Luang Subdistrict, Wang Saphung District, Loei Province, received a letter from Loei office of the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection, summoning Wanphen and her family members for interrogation.

The letter issued on 27 November 2015 summons Wanphen and her family members for interrogation on 21 December at the Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection in Loei.

It states that Tungkam Co. Ltd., a gold mining company operating in the district, has sued Wanphen under the criminal defamation law.

The company alleged that she defamed the company when she participated in an environmental youth camp called Hak Ban Hao (Love One’s Village) organised by Thai Volunteer Service (TVS), a Thai NGO, between 28 and 30 August 2015.

Parts of the camp activities were broadcast by Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) on 1 September 2015. In the broadcast video, the 15-year-old student said “the local creek has been affected by the gold mining operations. It is contaminated and we can’t drink it.”

The Director of the Provincial Juvenile Observation and Protection Office will determine whether the case will be accepted in accordance with Article 99 of the 2010 Juvenile and Family Case Procedure.

Earlier, the company’s representatives said that they would also press charges under Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act and criminal defamation charges against Thai PBS, the organisers of the camp, and the participants.

The conflict between the Wang Saphung villagers and Tungkam Co. Ltd., a gold mining company which won a state contract the mine the area, has been ongoing for many years.

The villagers founded Khon Rak Baan Koed Group (KRBK), translated as ‘People Who Love Their Home’, to campaign against mining activities, claiming that they have suffered numerous environmental problems.

According to the group, about 3,700 villagers from 1,000 families have suffered health problems from drinking the water from the area’s streams. Nonetheless, the company said that the claims were false.

Tension between villagers and the mine operator reached their peak in September 2013 when the villagers barricaded the mine entrance and blocked trucks, each of which normally carries 15 tons of cyanide waste, from passing through the area.

Thai PBS's broadcast of the Hak Ban Hao environmental youth camp in Loei between 28-30 August 2015