Villagers intimidated by military file complaint to NHRC

Villagers from southern Thailand have filed a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), claiming that they were harassed by the military for a campaign against construction of a dam.   

On 21 February 2017, 30 villagers from Tha Sae District in the southern province of Chumphon submitted a complaint to the NHRC office in Bangkok after they were intimidated by the military for protesting against the Tha Sae Dam Project.

Watchari Chanchuang, one of the 30, said that at 5 pm on 20 February, 10 fully armed soldiers visited their village and cited their authority under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to detain three bus drivers in order to prevent them from travelling to Government House and the NHRC office to submit a complaint against the plan to build the Tha Sae Dam.

The military detained the drivers overnight at a local military base and 30 representatives of the villagers had to travel to Bangkok separately to avoid interception by the military.

After they submitted the complaint to the NHRC, they travelled to Government House to submit a letter to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, urging the authorities to scrap the Tha Sae Dam Project.

Maj Gen Udomwit Anowan, Commander of the 44th Military Circle, announced in early February that the project will go ahead after a decade of delay, reasoning it is crucial to prevent droughts and floods in the region.  

If constructed, however, the dam would flood about 6,800 rai of land, including the land of local wildlife sanctuaries and result in the eviction of hundreds of villagers. About 500 households would be affected by the dam.

Local people suggested that the construction of minor reservoirs along local creeks and forest conservation are better and more sustainable solutions to the problem, adding that they do not want to be relocated from the areas despite the promise of reasonable compensation.

In response to their demand, the junta leader announced that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) will be conducted before the project is to go ahead.

Earlier on 19 February, 15 soldiers visited villagers in Tha Sae and summoned 15 of them to a military base as they planned to travel to Government House on 20 February. The 15 had to report to Krom Luang Chumphon military base for a ‘discussion’ the next day.   

Representatives of villagers from Tha Sae District in Chumphon submit a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (Photo from the NHRC's website)