On 6 December, 36 villagers from Chana District, Songkhla Province, were arrested after they camped in front of Government House, asking for an update on the promise made last year to reconsider a 16,700-rai industrial estate in the South that would affect their livelihoods.
A villager arrested by the police on Monday night.
As of 7 December afternoon, the environmental law NGO EnLaw,, tweeted that the villagers had been released without bail at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau where they were detained for a night. The police set the condition that they must not stage any activity of this kind again.
According to the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), the villagers were charged with violating the Emergency Decree, causing traffic disruptions and refusing to follow official instructions. Among the villagers charged was a 70 year old.
“What the police have done to the people of Chana who came peacefully to demand answers from the government clearly shows that this is a government working for tycoons before the people,” said Pornpen Kongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation. “This further demonstrates that this government has no respect for the people.”
On Tuesday, 18-year-old Khairiyah Rahmanyah and other young protesters who had not been arrested gathered in front of the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission, opposite Government House, and declared they will keep fighting.
Meanwhile, Rungruang Rahmanyah, one of the protesters arrested last night, wrote a letter while in detention saying that the police told them that the authorities won't press charges against them if they stop protesting against the industrial project.
Ruangruang wrote that the protesters refused the offer, and that they will return to Government House once released.
"We are ready to give up our lives," he wrote.
On Monday night, community members were taken away in a detention truck, while crowd control police prevented reporters from recording the operation, threatening them with arrest and claiming that this was in line with an agreement between the Royal Thai Police and the media professional associations. Lights were intentionally directed against the photographers to prevent photographing. The police also stopped volunteer medics from reaching community members.
The incident caused #saveจะนะ hit Thailand’s twitter top trend on 6 and 7 December.
The Chana industrial project was approved by a resolution at the last cabinet meeting of the junta government which was installed after the coup in 2014. The project aims to construct an 18-billion-baht industrial estate on 16,700 rai of land. The area covers 3 sub districts with 1,500 residents.
The project is controversial because of questions about the public hearing process where those who opposed the project for a number of reasons, including its impact on livelihoods, homes and the environment, were barred from attending hearings.
The villagers had come to protest at Government House in December last year, demanding the project be cancelled and for a proper Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to be conducted to establish quality technical data for decisions about further development projects in the south.
At that time, Thammanat Prompao, the then Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, announced that a committee would be formed consisting of both those in favour and those against the project. Membership of the committee would be considered later and fieldwork carried out at the beginning of 2021.
On Tuesday (7 December 2021), Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha answered the media about the Chana protesters incident, saying that what Thammanat had proposed to the villagers was not agreed upon by either the cabinet or himself.
Gen Prayut was the one who fired Thammanat in September 2021 during the no-confidence motion after rumours of Thammanat’s attempt to topple him from within the ruling Palang Pracharat Party.