Thailand Reform Forum #3
Martial Law and the Management of Natural Resources and the Environment: The case of mining in Thailand
Tuesday 23 September 2014
The Culture of People’s Participation Threatened by Martial Law
The management of natural resources and the environment including mining in Thailand has been monopolized by the Thai state which controls mining policy and decision makings in mining licensing and concession. It has given rise to violations of community rights and the rights of people living close to the mining sites. Even though the 2007 Constitution has been revoked, but the principle of community rights continues to be provided for by Section 4 of the currently applicable 2014 Interim Constitution. The government, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and concerned state agencies are obliged to act in compliance with it. Previously, villagers and community have mobilized together to pressure and accomplished in their demand for the installment of mechanisms to investigate the impacts. Conceding to the demand, the state, government officials and entrepreneurs have set up committees at the provincial and national levels to carry out an inquiry into the problem. But the whole process has crumbled as a result of the imposition of Martial Law. Decisions have arbitrarily been made to grant concessions without heeding the previous agreement made with the villagers and other process including public participation.
State agencies have invoked Martial Law to employ violence and harsh measures to solve the problem. Military forces have been mobilized into the areas to suppress the villagers who are opposed to mining industry in Loei Province. Core members of the Udonthani environmental conservation group, against potash mining in Udon Thani have been summoned to report themselves and to get attitude adjustment as a result of which they are forced to stop their campaign. The exercise of the draconian power has brought attempts to educate the mass to a halt. Consultation with community has been disallowed. Community radio, an important educational tool used by the Udon Thani environmental Conservation Group, has been shut down. With Martial Law in hand, military and government officials and entrepreneurs have combined force to infringe on community and people’s rights. With the suppression of the right to freedom of expression, the entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to launch their one-sided information campaign which favors their business operations. Meanwhile, villagers are only allowed to air their grievances via the Ministry of Interior’s Damrongdhama Center and the National Reform Council which are ineffective to solve the problem. Community right as provided for by Section 4 of the Interim Constitution has been subject to complete disregard.
A number of Bills are being pushed through the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) including amendment made to the existing Mining Act and the Public Assembly Bill without any possibility for people to participate and to debate the pros and cons of each of the laws. No opportunity is provided for affected people to participate in the legislation process. A rush to push through the laws will inevitably bring about new problems to the community and people. As the promulgation of laws concerning the management of natural resources and the environment bears effect on the rights and freedom of people, it is essential that such laws are legislated during the time a permanent Constitution and genuine democracy are robustly restored.
- Repeal Martial Law and restore the opportunity for people’s participation. The government, NCPO and concerned agencies have to act to provide for community rights as prescribed for by Section 4 of the 2014 Interim Constitution.
- Put off the readings of mining law and laws concerning the protection of natural resources and the environment as well as people’s rights and freedom until after a fully functioning Parliament is restored after the next democratic election.
NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD)
Community Resource Center (CRC)
ENLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW)
E-san Human rights and Peace Information Centre
Eco-Culture Study Group
Human Rights Law Education for Society Group (Dao Din Group)