EARTH Thailand

Final ruling on Klity Creek compensation case

Bangkok Post 14 July 2016

The Supreme Court on Thursday reduced a compensation claim in the Klity Creek poisoning scandal from 29 million baht to 20 million baht, and ended a 13-year legal battle.

The case was first brought to Kanchanaburi Provincial Court in early 2003 by eight Karen villagers living at Klity Lang, a remote village in a national forest in Kanchanaburi's Thong Pha Phum district. The eight plaintiffs are four adults and four children who have developed chronic diseases associated with lead poisoning. They were represented by two solicitors from the Lawyers Council of Thailand. 

The lawsuit named Lead Concentrates (Thailand) as the first defendant while Kongsak Kleebbua, its owner, was named as second defendant. 

The eight plaintiffs, from three families, had demanded 119 million baht in compensation from the company, which they said contaminated Klity creek, the village's sole water source, by releasing untreated discharges into it for five years. In 2006, the Kanchanaburi court ruled the company guilty of discharging lead-contaminated water into the environment, causing severe ailments for villagers living near its lead-processing plant. The court ordered it to pay 4.2 million baht compensation to the plaintiffs.

The defendants brought the case to the Appeal Court which later ruled in favour of the Klity residents and raised the amount of compensation to 29.5 million baht. 

The final ruling read out by the Kanchanaburi court on Thursday reduced the compensation to 20.2 million baht. 

Surapol Kongchanthuek, director of the Karen Studies and Development Centre, who was a member of a committee to solve pollution problems in the creek, said the damages were based on how the pollution affected the villagers' lives as well as past and future medical expenses. 

Lead Concentrates was declared bankrupt and Kongsak died many years ago, Mr Surapol said, adding Kongsak’s wife, Suladda Kleebbua, is now the defendant in the case. 

“Although the Klity villagers will not receive their compensation today, it is a good start and the villagers have finally received justice for what they have lost,” Mr Surapol said. 

Kamthorn Srisuwanmala, 47, one of the defendants, said he and other residents were happy with the decision and thanked the court for giving them justice. 

“Many of us have been suffering from lead-related illnesses and some died over the past 10 years,” Mr Kamthorn said. 

A similar case involving 151 affected villagers, four of whom have died, is expected to enter the Supreme Court’s hearing soon. 

The lead contamination at Klity Lang village was first reported in 1998. The government closed Lead Concentrates Co's lead-extractting plant three years later following the deaths of some villagers and their cattle. The company later shut down its operation.