HUMAN RIGHTS groups have called upon Thai authorities to reopen an investigation and ensure legal due process for an attack on human rights defenders by a mob of masked, armed men in Loei Province in 2014.
Fortify Rights, Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG), and the Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC) said Monday that to date, Thai police had only identified and convicted two of the 150 people responsible for the assault on activists protesting a controversial gold mine Na Nong Bong village, Loei Province.
“Three years later and justice is still unfulfilled for those attacked in Loei Province,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights.
“Thai authorities have a responsibility to hold all perpetrators to account and ensure remedies for those harmed during the attack.”
— Fortify Rights (@FortifyRights) May 15, 2017
In May 2014, an unknown militia armed with guns, knives and sticks allegedly detained and assaulted a group of villagers for several hours.
Many of the victims were members of the KRBKG, which has opposed the mine over claims it will have health and environmental consequences for their community by contaminating local groundwater, streams and soil. Trucks were seen leaving the mine site during the attacks.
In May last year two men – Army Lieutenant Colonel Poramin Pomnak and retired Army Lieutenant General Porames Pomnak – were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for their role in the attack and forced to pay compensation to nine villagers ranging from 2,600 to 25,000 Thai Baht (US$72 to US$700).
At that time, Smith said: “Heavy costs comes with exercising your rights in Thailand. The courageous human rights defenders working to protect their land and their futures know these costs well.”
Thailand has come under sustained criticism for failing to adequately protect human rights defenders. During its Universal Periodic Review in May last year, many states parties urged the Thai government to impartially investigate all attacks on activists – a recommendation it accepted.
A March 2017 review by the Human Rights Committee raised concerns that a growing number individuals had been arrested and detained at undisclosed places without access to lawyers.
“Our community has not received justice. We were attacked for protecting our community, and only two people were convicted,” said KRBKG leader Viron Rujichaiyavat this week.
“The sentences they received are also not proportionate to the gravity of their actions.”
“Conducting a thorough investigation into the 2014 attack would prove to the international community that the Thai government is serious about human rights and accountability,” said the Coordinator of CRC Sor Rattanamanee Polkla.
“The work of human rights defenders is integral to ensuring the environment is protected in Loei Province and throughout Thailand. This work should be safeguarded.”