Wasant Techawongtham in the Bangkok Post:
If Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had declared martial law a few days earlier, the rogue soldier who led an armed gang to attack the villagers of Ban Na Nong Bong might have had second thoughts.
The struggle of anti-mine protesters in Loei epitomises state failure to enforce local communities’ right to have a say over the use of their natural resources.
At first glance, the incident at the village in Loei province might have no bearing on what is happening hundreds of kilometres away in Bangkok. But in fact it presents a good case study for the urgent need for national reform.
Police were no help, showing up only after the fact, which didn’t surprise the villagers who identified the leaders of the armed gang as Lt Gen Poramet Pomnak and his son Poramin.
But its immediate effect is to give the Na Nong Bong villagers a reprieve from the constant fear of intimidation by armed thugs although they realise that a long, hard fight still lies ahead.
The Na Nong Bong villagers’ plight illustrates quite succinctly what has gone wrong with this country’s management of its natural resources, which in many ways has contributed to the current political mess.
In case you are confused what incident is being referred to. Wikipedia has a summary:
he Ban Na Nong Bong incident that involved severe physical beating by promoters of a gold mine on the night of May 16, 2014, versus villagers suffering from illness, in the village of Ban Na Nong Bong, Wang Saphung District, Loei Province of Thailand. Residents of Na Nong Bong and five neighbouring villages have been embroiled in a long-running dispute with a gold mine operated by Tungkum Limited, a subsidiary of Tungkah Harbour Pcl, after which they blocked the entrance road to the mine with trucks. The gold mine was accused of poisoning the villagers’ land and water supplies and causing serious health problems among them. Yon Khunna, who was watching out for the village on Thursday night, said the men tied his hands and beat him up for hours. “I was released just at 4.30am,” he said About 300 men, wearing balaclavas and carrying sticks, knives and guns, went on a terror rampage at Ban Na Nong Bong in Wang Saphung district, from 10pm on May 15 to 5am the following day. Wearing black and white ski masks and armed with guns, knives and clubs, up to 400 men rounded up and beat 40 people, including women, in the Khao Luang District of Loei province near the northern border with Laos. They covered villagers’ eyes, bound their ankles and wrists and beat them black and blue. They treated us like we weren’t human, one villager, Pauntip Hongchai, told Reuters by phone. Network of Lecturers and Students for Society and the Environment issued a statement condemning the attack. “This is a grave violation against human rights and community rights”. Ecological Alert and Recovery — Thailand (EARTH) has also issued a statement.
BP: Saksith blogged a summary of some developments and some links a few days ago.
Wassant on April 25 in the Bangkok Post:
On Monday morning, a convoy of trailer trucks accompanied by smaller vehicles with concealed licence plates drove through the villages to the mine. Later that day, a group of about 15 men wearing black jackets arrived in two vehicles at the barricade. The group was led by a man identified as Lt Gen Poramet Pomnak.
Not surprisingly, the latest development has aroused fear and apprehension among the villagers. They regard the visit of the black jacket-clad men led by a high-ranking military officer as intimidation. They also feel the mining company is insincere in trying to resolve the dispute peacefully.
Lt Gen Poramet has been implicated in a number of controversies before, including one where he employed a group of men to raid a Bangkok market. He also has close relationship with Gen Kittisak Ratprasert, a former executive of Tungkum.
As the country’s legal enforcement mechanisms are going to hell in a handbasket, the common folk have to defend themselves against those intent on exploiting natural resources and taking advantage of people’s weaknesses.
BP: Given it is in Loei, it is likely there are political connections with the pro-Thaksin side (Wassant mentions provincial Administrative Organisation President Thanawut Thimsuwan and Thanawaut was part of Thai Rak Thai in the past) although am not so familiar with Thanawut and Google doesn’t provide much information. However, BP has certainly heard of Kittisak and there is a lot info about him online. He was a former Democrat Party candidate in the 1990s, with the New Aspiration Party, and then later joined the PAD (he was the one who filed a lese majeste complaint against Thaksin Shinawatra regarding his chaired a merit-making ceremony at the Temple of Emerald Buddha in 2005). He was selected as the New Politics Party candidate to compete in a by-election in 2010. Then per TNA:
Thailand’s newly-established New Politics Party (NPP) on Friday announced withdrawal from contesting the July 25 by-election.
The party said it does not want to compete with a “terrorist,” the Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.
The NPP on Thursday announced to send General Kittisak Rathprasert to run in the July 25 by-election in Bangkok’s constituency 6. General Kittisak is an ex-army officer and an NPP executive committee member.
He said he decided to withdraw from the contest after realizing that Korkaew Pikulthong, an anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader charged with terrorism, will also be a contender, the Bangkok Post’s website reported.
BP: He is not an advisor and was a candidate in the 2011 election for the Peaceful People party (whose members include former national police chief Pol General Patcharawat Wongsuwan – the brother of Prawit). He was then part of the Pitak Siam group protesting against the Yingluck government in 2012.
A question, do you think the junta will be paying attention to what a lackey of such an anti-Thaksin stalwart is doing? You think this would be seriously on their radar. Politicians are not behind all evil in the country. Putting all your faith in the military who have absolute power now and are not accountable to anyone is not the answer….