EARTH Thailand

Court acquits seven female activists in case over campaign against gold mining company


LOEI PROVINCIAL Court has dismissed the case against seven female activists who are being sued for their campaign against a gold mine operator’s effort to renew land usage permission on forestland.

Members of Tambon Khao Laung Administrative Organisation sued seven local activists from “Khon Rak Ban Kerd” group, alleging a violation of the Public Assembly Act, blocking the entrance and exit, disturbing the state office and threatening others.

The allegations came after more than 150 residents from Na Nong Bong village gathered at the Tambon Khao Laung Administrative Organisation meeting to oppose a request by Tungkum Limited gold-mining company to use land in the area for mining operations.

The defendants were Pornthip Hongchai, 47, Viron Rujichaiyavat, 47, Ranong Kongsaen, 56, Mon Khunna, 40, Suphat Khunna, 47, Boonraeng Srithong, 52, and Lumplearn Ruengrith, 57.

If they had been found guilty, they could have faced a sentence of up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to Bt100,000 for threatening and a sentence of up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to Bt10,000 for violating the Public Assembly Act.

Teerapan Pankiri, the defendants lawyer from the Community Resource Centre Foundation, said after the hearing that the judge had dismissed all allegations against the defendants because they were actually invited to the meeting of Tambon Khao Laung Administrative Organisation, so their gathering at Tambon Khao Laung Administrative Organisation Office could not be considered a protest.

“The meeting of the Khao Luang Administrative Organisation was a meeting as per the Interior Ministry’s regulation, thus the Public Assembly Act cannot be applied to such a gathering, so the villagers who went to the meeting are not guilty of violating this law,” Teerapan said.

“On the accusation about threatening a member of the Khao Luang Administrative Organisation, the court was given conflicting testimonies by witnesses, but the court ruled that the activists had calmly participated in the meeting and there was no sign of an intention to cause violence.”

The court viewed that the villagers’ use of a megaphone was within their basic rights, he said.

Teerapan added that the plaintiffs have the right to appeal within 30 days.