A Thai mining company operating in Myanmar has filed a criminal defamation lawsuit against a Thai journalist for reporting alleged environmental damage.
On 14 May 2017, Reporters Without Borders, journalists, and civil society groups from Thailand and Myanmar issued a joint statement to support Pratch Rujivanarom, a Nation Multimedia Group journalist.
The group demands that Myanmar Pongpipat Co Ltd (MPC), a Thai mining company operating in Myanmar, withdraw lawsuits filed against Pratch and The Nation.
On 20 March, the company filed lawsuits at Nakhon Pathom Provincial Court accusing Pratch and The Nation of violating Articles 59, 83, 91, 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code, which deal with defamation, and Article 14 of Computer Crime Code, the law against the importation illegal computer content.
MPC alleges that the article ‘Thai mines destroy water resources in Myanmar’ contained false allegations that the company’s tin mine is contaminating the river and water supply of Myaung Pyo village in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region.
“We cannot use the water, not even to water trees, because it flows from the mine,” Pratch quoted Eyi We, a local villager, as saying.
The company dismissed the claims as false, even though they are supported by the research of Tanapon Phenrat, an environmental engineering expert from Naresuan University. He found that water samples collected from the village show excessive levels of manganese.
The statement points out that the company’s lawsuit violates the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Thailand is a signatory.
Among the organisations which signed the statement are Amnesty International, Kaokuha Community Rights Protection Association, Earth Rights International, Land Watch Thai, TERRA, the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network, the Campaign for Public Policy on Mineral Resources, the Dawei Watch Foundation, and the Human Rights and Environment Promotion Association.
If found guilty, Pratch could be sentenced to up to five years in jail, or a 200,000 baht fine, or both.
Pratch Rujivanarom, a journalist from the Nation Multimedia Group