Potash mining protesters face intimidation charge
LOCALS LEADING a protest against potash mining by a Chinese company in Sakon Nakhon province will face an additional charge of intimidation.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) yesterday reported that two leading members of the potash mining opposition group, Sutta Khamnoi and Kitthakorn Noi-saeng, have been summoned by Wanon Niwat district police to hear the new charge.
If the accused are found guilty, they would face punishment of up to three years in prison and/or a Bt6,000 fine.
This is the second charge brought against the pair. Earlier on Tuesday they were charged with arranging an illegal public gathering to protest last week against the potash exploration operation by China Mingda Potash Corporation.
Sakkaphon Charirat, the lawyer for the group fighting the potash mining, said the accused would defend themselves against the two |allegations by arguing that their opposition to potash exploration was a rightful exercise of their right to protect their natural resources and livelihood, which is guaranteed by the Constitution.
Sakkaphon said he was confident that the will of the local people would prevail, as their protest was peaceful and was within the limits of the law.
The latest dispute between local people and China Mingda was triggered by the company’s operation to drill a fourth potash exploration well in Tambon Wanon Niwat last Wednesday.
Locals, who are opposed to potash mining due to worries about the adverse impact to the environment and their livelihood, gathered at the entrance of the potash exploration site and tried to block the company’s operation.
The protest ended on Tuesday after the company’s team halted its activities and pulled out of the area.
TLHR revealed that the recent charges against the group were not new. There were already four other cases in which six people from the movement opposed to potash exploration in Wanon Niwat district were charged with violating the Public Gathering Act.
Sakkaphon said the local people were still insistent that authorities disclosed details of China Mingda’s mineral exploration licence and inspection of the drilling site, to make sure that potash exploration would not be conducted in a prohibited area.
He also disclosed that the opposition group would march to Sakon Nakhon City Hall to press their demands with related agencies soon.