Police in northeastern Thailand have summoned seven anti-mine activists, accusing them of intimidating district officials and unlawful assembly.
On 18 December 2016, seven members of an activist group called Khon Rak Ban Koed (KRBK), translated as ‘People Who Love Their Home’, reported to Wang Saphung Police Station in Loei Province after one of them received a summons in early December.
KRBK is an anti-mine group comprising villagers from six villages in Wang Saphung District.
The seven are Phonthip Hongchai, Ranong Kongsaen, Wiron Ruchichaiwat, Suphat Khunna, Bunraeng Sithong, Mon Khunna, and Lamphloen Rueangrit.
The police accused them of violating the Public Assembly Act and intimidating public officials for leading more than 100 people to gather in front of Wang Saphung District Administration Office on 16 November 2016 while the officials were holding a meeting to consider a request to extend the mining concession for Tungkum Co Ltd, a gold mine operator in Loei.
The police said that the KRBK members did not inform the authorities about the gathering before holding it. Therefore, each of the seven is subject to a 500 baht fine, adding that the fine will increase to 10,000 baht if they are found guilty.
The seven, however, denied the accusation and refused the pay the fine, arguing that they and other villagers merely gathered in front of the Wang Saphung District Administration Office to observe the meeting on the mining concession.
Around 50 Wang Saphung villagers travelled to the police station to give moral support for the seven as they were listening to the accusations against them.
Tension between villagers and the company reached its 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, Tungkum 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.
The seven Khon Rak Ban Koed (KRBK) activists and other villagers gather in front of Wang Saphung Police Station in Loei on 18 December 2016