Potash mine opponents make a stand at hearing

national April 24, 2016 01:00

By Seksanti Kallayanawisut
The S

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Udon Thani residents Blow whistles during threehour forum, vow to fight in court if project gets go ahead



HUNDREDS of local people blew whistles to show their opposition to a potash-mining project throughout a public hearing yesterday.
The hearing took place at a school in Udon Thani’s Muang district to gather opinions from people who will be affected by the planned potash mine. 
Given that this project has drawn stiff opposition from locals for more than one decade, 1,200 police and 400 soldiers were mobilised to ensure the forum was able to go ahead. 
Led by Manee Boonrawd, hundreds of people showed up for the meeting in green T-shirts emblazoned with the message ‘We can’t retreat’. 
“We will fight to the end,” Manee said. 
Her group believes that the potash mine, if launched, is a threat to the local environment as well as the health of local people. 
Manee also described yesterday’s public hearing as lacking transparency. She pointed out that the organiser failed to check the national identification cards of all people who claimed they were stakeholders, before gathering opinions. 
Pikulthong Tothuyo, who is from Manee’s environmental-protection group, submitted a petition at the very beginning of the public hearing that said over the past six years, many plots of land in the zone to be covered by the mining project had changed hands.
The petition also mentioned that a demarcation operation, as well as an environmental impact assessment – both of which are pending – for potash mining in the Northeast. 
Deputy Udon Thani Governor Somwang Phuangbanpo, who presided over the hearing, asked that the event go ahead and added that he would look into the petition later. 
Opponents and supporters of the potash mine, planned by Asia Pacific Potash Corporation, expressed different opinions during the event, which lasted more than three hours. 
Every now and then, green-wearing participants blew their whistles to make it clear that they opposed the project. 
Supporters of the project said they wanted this project to go ahead so that their children and grandchildren would not have to leave their home provinces for jobs in big cities. 
A leading member of the supporters is Sgt-Major Chalong Phuwilai, chairman of Tambon Non Soong Administrative Organisation. 
Sakol Anantawanicha, who heads the Department of Primary Industries and Mines’ Office of Primary Industries, said the potash project would still have to go through many steps before it could be submitted to Cabinet for consideration. 
“The public hearing was held to gather opinions from stakeholders and address concerns they have had,” he said. 
Information from the event would be compiled and forwarded to the Industry minister, he said. 
Sakol added: “I will present facts and make clear that the project has both supporters and opponents.”
Manee vowed to block this potash-mining project, even if it sailed past other procedures. 
“I will petition the courts,” she said.