Soldiers in the northeastern (Isan) province of Udon Thani are intimidating anti-mine activists ahead of a planned forum on the environmental effects of a potash mine.
The Community Media for Just Society (CMJS), a local media organization based in Udon Thani Province, reported that between 11 am and 12 noon on Friday, 22 Friday 2016, soldiers from the 24th Military Circle visited key leaders of an environmental protection group in Na Muang and Huai Sam Phat Subdistricts of Prachaksinlapakhom District of Udon Thani.
The visits were made before a planned forum on the environmental effects of a potash mine in the province, which will be held at Nonsoongpitayakarn School in Mueang District of the province on 23 April from 9 am -12 noon. Currently, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is considering whether to grant a concession to Asia Pacific Potash Corporation to operate a potash mine in the area.
During the visits, the soldiers told the activists that they had been informed that about 200 student activists will be present at the forum.
Mani Bunrod, one of the activists visited by the soldiers, said that it is strange that the military is monitoring their activities, but leaving the mining company alone because they did nothing wrong and are merely protecting their community.
“The villagers are just protecting their homeland. We are not culprits who should be monitored and intimidated by the authorities,” CJMS quoted Mani as saying.
From other local news sources, the soldiers from the 24th Military Circle have prepared equipment, such as batons and shields, which could be used to disperse the crowd at the planned forum, CJMS reported.
The military, however, did not order the anti-mine activists to cancel the planned forum.
Soldiers visiting one of the anti-mine activists in Udon Thani Province on 22 April 2016 (courtesy of CMJS)