Gold mining firm agrees to drop lawsuits

Gold mining firm agrees to drop lawsuits
Boonchu Sritraipop,
Wasu Vipoosanapat,
Chanikarn Phumhiran

Two suspects indicted over Loei assault case
VILLAGERS protesting against the gold mine in Wang Saphung district in Loei province will not face civil lawsuits by Thung Kham Ltd, and it looks likely that criminal cases against them will also be dropped.

Meanwhile, two suspects have been indicted in the case in which 200 men assaulted villagers who blocked a nearby road on May 15.

At the Loei City Hall yesterday, a lawyer for the villagers talked with Thung Kham representative Wichit Chiamwichitkun, an executive from Tongkah Harbour, about the civil lawsuits seeking Bt120 million from 33 protesting villagers.

The talk was witnessed by Loei governor Viroj Jivarangsan, Loei Army commander Maj-General Thalerngsak Pulsuwan, Loei police chief Pol Maj General Sakda Wongsiriyanont and Loei prosecutor Wachira Phromthes.

The discussion led to Thung Kham agreeing to drop all civil lawsuits and asking for a chance to talk with villagers to try to reach a better understanding with them.

Wachira later commented that all levels were inclined to not sue protesting villagers in criminal cases, in an effort to end the row and bring about reconciliation.

Meanwhile, the National Humans Rights Commission (NHRC) subcommittee on community rights is acting on a complaint about the Mineral Bill.

Yesterday, the subcommittee's chairman and NHRC commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara met with representatives of people who have opposed the bill on suspicion it will violate people's rights and some laws.

These people come from Phichit, Phitsanulok, Saraburi, Lop Buri, Phetchabun provinces.

"A gold mine in Phichit province has posed a health threat," villager Seukanya Thirachartdamrong said.

She said blood tests conducted on more than 300 people living near the gold mine reveal that their blood is contaminated by heavy metals.

"We are worried most about children," Seukanya said. She said Central Institute of Forensic Science director general Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan had arranged the tests.

Niran said his subcommittee might consider asking for more information from Porntip.

He said the subcommittee would also contact the Council of State to ask it to listen to people who feel the new draft law could adversely affect their lives when it is enforced.

Cabinet approved the Mineral Bill on October 21. The Council of State is in the process of reviewing it.

"We will also summarise people's concerns and submit our report to the government as well as the National Legislative Assembly," Niran said.

He believed the draft law should be totally revised, because it did not cover "public engagement" aspects.

Chat Hongtiamchant, deputy head of the Department of Primary Industry and Mines, said drafters of the bill had already taken people's opinions into account.

"The bill, when enacted, will also require the establishment of a fund for rehabilitation of old mining areas," he said.

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