The ongoing criminal trial in the Loei Provincial Court, where a verdict is awaited tomorrow, is an important test of Thailand’s commitment to hold those responsible for criminal offences against human rights defenders to account, the ICJ and Protection International said today.
On 31 May, the Loei Provincial Court will render its verdict following the trial of retired Royal Thai Army officer, Lt Gen Poramet Pomnak, and his son, Royal Thai Army officer, Lt Col Poramin Pomnak, on criminal charges related to their alleged participation in a violent attack by a group of over 100 armed men against members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG) in Nanonbong village in Loei and other villagers.
The victims were assaulted and held captive for over seven hours during the attack in the evening of 15 May 2014.
More than 20 people were injured, with seven requiring hospitalization for serious injuries.
KRBKG is a community-based group protesting what they allege is the damaging impact of mining operations on their health and their environment.
Most of KRBKG’s activities have focused on stopping the operations of the Phuthapfa gold mine operated by Thai company, Tungkum Ltd., situated in Loei Province.
“This case has become emblematic of the human rights abuses faced by human rights defenders trying to protect their communities in Thailand,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “Many people are looking at this case to see whether the Thai government will follow through on its commitment to protect human rights defenders.”
The attack on Nanonbong village occurred after KRBKG and local residents barricaded the road to the gold mine, which passes through the village.
During the attack, the barricade was destroyed and at least 13 trucks were reportedly seen transporting materials from the mine site.
Partly based on the villagers’ testimony that Lt Col Poramet Pomnak and Lt Col Poramin Pomnak were involved in the 15 May violence, the two were indicted on several charges, including offences of ‘injury to the person causing bodily harm’ and ‘false imprisonment’ (or illegal deprivation of liberty), under articles 295 and 309 of the Thai Criminal Code.
“Given credible reports that a group of over 100 armed men were involved, the ICJ is concerned that only two people have been indicted for the attack, and we are therefore calling on the Thai authorities to re-open investigations and ensure all those responsible are held to account and redress is provided for the victims concerned,” Zarifi added.
The case against Lt Col Poramet Pomnak and Lt Col Poramin Pomnak comes against a background of disputes between KRBKG and Tungkum Ltd.
The company filed at least 19 criminal and civil lawsuits against 33 members of KRBKG and other villagers in the past seven years.
One of those cases includes claims of criminal defamation against a 15-year old girl who allegedly made negative statements about the company’s activities on a television program.
Members of KRBKG have joined as plaintiffs in the criminal case and are demanding compensation from the two defendants.
Lt Col Poramet Pomnak and Lt Col Poramin Pomnak were formally indicted on the following charges of the Thai Penal Code: articles 295 (‘injury to the person causing bodily harm’) and 296 (sentencing for bodily harm), 309 (‘false imprisonment’ or ‘illegal confinement’) and 310 (sentencing for false imprisonment), 358 (‘offence of mischief’ or ‘damage to property’) 371 (‘offence of bearing arms’), 376 (‘offence of discharging a firearm’), 391 (sentencing for acts of violence not amounting to bodily harm) taken together with articles 32, 33, (‘forfeiture of property used in the commission of an offence’) 83, 84, (principals and accomplices, accessories or conspirators) 91, (articles 90 and 91 set out provisions for sentencing when an act constitutes multiple offences. Sentences can be awarded for each offence consecutively, but with a maximum time as prescribed by article 91); and articles 4, 7, 8bis, 72, 72bis of the Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks, and the Equivalent of Firearms Act B.E.2490 (1947); article 3 of the Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks, and the Equivalent of Firearms Act (No.3) B.E.2501 (1958); No. 3, 6, 7 of the Order of the Announcement of the National Administrative Reform Council no.44 dated 21 October 1976.
Thailand has a legal obligation to protect all human rights defenders from retaliation for the legitimate and lawful exercise of their rights. On 17 December 2015, Thailand joined 126 other States at the UN General Assembly in adopting one of the latest UN resolutions on human rights defenders. General Assembly resolution 70/161 recognizes the importance of States’ protection of human rights defenders, in particular from being prosecuted for peaceful activities and against other threats, harassment and intimidation; and encourages States to investigate allegations of intimidation and reprisals, and to bring perpetrators to justice.
Thailand-Loei case-News-2016-THA (full text in Thai, PDF)NewsPress releases