A company who operated a highly controversial gold mine in northeastern Leoi Province has started libel suits in Leoi and Bangkok against a 15-year-old girl for her citizen reporting about the mine. While Bangkok police are investigating the case, the juvenile legal office in Leoi ruled that the company could not sue her.
The Juvenile Observation and Protection Office in Leoi Province on Thursday, 2 June 2016, ruled that the company could not file the criminal defamation suit against Wanpen Khuna to the Juvenile Court. The office did not give reasons in its letter to Thung Kham Company, operator of the gold mine in Na Nong Bong Village of the Khao Luang Sub-district in Wang Saphung District of Loei. Meanwhile, police in Bangkok’s Minburi District are investigating the case.
The company accused the girl of defaming them due to her report on TPBS’s Citizen Journalists section. In the report, disseminated on 1 September 2015, the girl told the audience that the water from a waterway in the district is contaminated due to the mining.
The company also filed civilian defamation case against TPBS executives for compensation of 50 million baht.
In May, a Provincial Court in the province handed down jail terms to two military officers accused of involvement in a violent assault against anti-mine villagers while dismissing lawsuits filed by a mining company against anti-mine activists.
The assault took place on the night of 15 May 2014, when about 200 armed men dressed in black stormed a checkpoint leading to the mine in an attempt to transport mineral ore from the mine. The unidentified men assaulted the villagers, used guns to intimidate them and held some of them hostage.
Tension between villagers and the company reached a peak in September 2013 when the villagers barricaded the mine entrance, blocking trucks, each of which normally carries 15 tons of cyanide waste, from passing through their villages. Although the sound of the machines disappeared and the sound of chirping birds returned, the villagers had to live in fear of judicial harassment, thugs, gunmen and death threats.
Currently, Thung Kham Company has halted mining operations since mid-2013. However, the company is currently trying to get permission from the authorities to renew the mining concession in Wang Saphung District.