The military has forced villagers in Sa Kaeo to cancel a protest against plans to construct a factory to separate industrial and toxic wastes, saying only protests about dengue fever or illicit drugs would be allowed.
On 21 March 2017, soldiers intervened in a meeting of a group of teachers and village headmen of Khlong Thap Chan Subdistrict of Aranyaprathet District in Sa Kaeo Province.
In the meeting, teachers from four public schools, school directors, and village leaders were planning a protest against plans to construct a factory in the area to separate industrial and toxic wastes from Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
The group planned to stage the protest at 8:30 am on 22 March with villagers who oppose the factory, including students from the four schools.
The military, however, prohibited the protest, claiming that it would violate the Public Assembly Act.
If the protest was about mosquitoes spreading dengue fever or illicit drugs it would have been allowed, said military personnel.
Chinakon Saisema, one of the village headmen, said that since the event was not permitted, the villagers put up banners against the waste factory around schools in the area and screened a documentary about garbage management in one of the schools.
Earlier, about 2,000 villagers from 18 villages in the area signed a petition against the factory, which was submitted to the Sa Kaeo Provincial Hall.
Chaiyo Kanopbawonkun, a member of Sa Kaeo Provincial Council, told the media that the villagers are afraid that the waste factory would cause environmental damage since it could contaminate groundwater sources in the area.
Students of a school in Khlong Thap Chan hold banners on 22 March 2017 to campaign against a plan to construct a toxic waste processing factory (Photo from Komchadluek)