Court dismisses mining company’s case against Thai PBS

In a landmark case for media, a Thai court has dismissed a criminal defamation case filed against the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) and four media workers for airing a program on environment impacts of the gold mining industry.

On 16 November 2016, the Bangkok Criminal Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Tungkam Co. Ltd against Thai PBS and four of its current and previous employees. Tungkam is a gold mining company operating in Wang Saphung District of the northeastern Loei Province.

The four Thai PBS employers are: Wirada Saelim; then-Director-General of Thai PBS, Korkhet Chantalertluk; Director of the News Department at Thai PBS, and Yothin Sitthibodeekul; Director of the Television and Radio Department at Thai PBS and Somchai Suwanbun.

Tungkam had accused Thai PBS of criminal defamation and violation of Article 14 and 16 of the Computer Crime Act, alleging that Thai PBS damaged the company’s reputation by reporting on environmental impacts potentially connected to the company’s copper-gold mine in Loei.

The company demanded 50 million Thai Baht (US$1.4 million) in compensation as well as the revocation of Thai PBS’s operating license for five years.

But the court dismissed the company’s argument that its mining operations have no environmental impact, and cited findings from the government that local waterways are indeed badly polluted. It ultimately ruled to dismiss the case in favour of Thai PBS.

Conflict between Tungkam and Thai PBS began in late 2015, when the company filed a lawsuit against Wanphen Khunna, a 15-year-old high school student from Si Songkhram School in the Wang Saphung District. The student had appeared on the Thai PBS program on gold mining and commented that local waterways were left heavily polluted from Tungkam’s mining operations.

The case against Wanphen was, however, dismissed by Loei Juvenile Court.  

In the past several years, Tungkham has filed numerous cases against Wang Saphung community leaders who allege that its mining operations have caused serious environmental impacts in the area. Many of these cases are still ongoing.  

 
Thai PBS's broadcast of the Hak Ban Hao environmental youth camp in Loei in August 2015 where local youths voiced concerns about environmental impacts potentially connected to the company’s copper-gold mine