May 19, 2014 00:00 By Boonchu Sritraipop The Nation
Loei villagers fear fresh attack
Several networks are pressuring police to quickly nail the culprits behind a recent blatant and well-organised attack on villagers engaged in a long-running environmental dispute with a nearby mine.
They also demanded that the Loei governor bring the Crime Suppression Division into the investigation, which is being handled by local police.
Late on Thursday night, villagers said more than 100 masked men stormed into Ban Na Nong Bong in Tambon Khao Luang, Wang Saphung district.
Wielding iron bars and carrying knives and guns, the men attacked residents. Some victims were held illegally until Friday morning.
More than 30 were injured, three seriously.
Locals alleged the armed men had links to the mining company. While the men were there several trucks left the company’s compound, reportedly carrying a huge amount of copper.
Veerapon Charoentham, the co-ordinator for the 10 community networks calling for swift action, yesterday joined a blessing ceremony held to boost the morale of Ban Na Nong Bong residents.
The networks issued a joint statement listing several demands, including the aforementioned ones. The networks include the Loei Health Society Network, the Tambon Administrative Organisation’s Chief Administrator Club, the Lawyers Council of Thailand, and the Media for Development Network.
“Local people are now worried about their safety. They believe such armed men will return to facilitate the delivery of valuable minerals out of the mine again,” the statement said.
Locals have expressed strong opposition to the mining operation as they suspect that valuable minerals were brought in from elsewhere and smelted in a way that endangered their health and the environment. Public health authorities warned locals not to use rainwater and water in the area.
Santipap Siriwattanapibul, a lecturer at Udon Thani Rajabhat University, yesterday joined several organisations in expressing concern over the violence.
They released a joint statement urging the Loei governor and police to quickly take action against the culprits.
The statement also demanded that relevant authorities develop measures to protect human-rights defenders in Wang Saphung district.
“Necessary action must be taken before deaths and forced disappearances of human-rights defenders take place,” it said.
Last month, prominent activist Pholachi “Billy” Rakchongcharoen went missing in Phetchaburi.