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Nong Bua Lamphu community rights group reclaims former mining zone

On 4 September, the women and men human rights defenders (W/HRDs) of the Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group have achieved a tremendous victory in their 26-year struggle against quarry mining by reclaiming the mining zone and proclaiming it a community forest zone.

(Source: Protection International)

At least 300 W/HRDs from the local communities within the Dong Mafai Sub District of Nong Bua Lamphu Province marched to occupy the mining zone. They performed traditional rituals and held rejuvenation ceremonies in order to revive their motherland back to its prosperous state, to the likes of its condition before mining.

The declaration of their victory and reclamation of justice came after the company’s forest utilization permit for quarry mining expired on 3 September 2020. After this date, the company no longer has valid legal permission to utilize the mining zone, forcing a halt to all operations. The effected mining operations occupied 175 Rai (28 hectares) of reserve forest on Huak Cliff, Dong Mafai Sub District, Suwannakuha District, within the Nong Bua Lampu Province of Northeast Thailand.

The rituals performed include the ordination of forestry—a traditional ritual done by the community to protect the forest from invaders—a declaration of the determination by the people of Dong Mafai to protect all the cliffs and forest from mining, a declaration of reclaiming justice for those who were killed from defending the community and forest from mining, and Bai Sri Suu Kwan, which is a traditional Thai blessing ceremony.

The blessing ceremony performed at the site (Source: Protection International)

The community W/HRDs of Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group have been opposed the mining operations for over two decades due to the negative impacts they have had on locals’ access to food sources in the forest, the damage to buildings due to debris caused by explosions at the mine, and its consequential pollution. Between 1995-1999, four environmental W/HRDs within the conservation group were killed for their activism work. No perpetrator has been held responsible for the crimes, further feeding the vicious cycle of impunity.

To date, the company still has access to the stone mill, which currently occupies 50 Rai (8 hectares) of land next to the mining zone. The Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group will continue to protest and blockade to mining site until the permit to the stone mill will expire on 24 September 2020, which is when the company’s overarching mining permit expires. The group plans to enter the mining areas and shut down the mining site permanently on 25 September 2020.

(Source: Protection International)

Protection International would like to congratulate and commend the W/HRDs’ continued efforts to put a permanent end to environmentally destructive 

mining operations. Thailand has clear obligations to respect the rights of environmental W/HRDs and protect them from harm. They should combat impunity for attacks and violations against environmental W/HRDs, particularly by non-State actors, who in turn also have responsibilities under human rights law. Business enterprises have a responsibility to respect internationally recognized human rights, a duty which is independent of State obligations.

Protection International urges for Thailand and the businesses operating within its borders to respect the right to defend human rights. We implore States to protect our environmental protectors. We encourage all key stakeholders to #StayWithDefenders throughout the current pandemic and beyond, as we continue to adapt our means of protest and freedom of expression.

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