By Chularat Saengpassa
Khon Kaen villagers oppose search for oil and gas
SOLDIERS and police joined a group of men wearing hoods and volunteers to clear the way for drilling equipment to be taken on an oil well in the Northeast yesterday morning, to the anguish of protesting villagers.
Residents of Ban Na Dun in Khon Kaen’s Kranuan district oppose drilling by Apico (Khorat) in nearby Kalasin province because they believe the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the project was not conducted properly.
Ban Na Dun residents live near to the drill site and may suffer if there are any ill-effects from the operation, so they turned to the Khon Kaen Administrative Court in December, which asked both sides to submit supporting documents.
“How come the firm says the environmental impact assessment for its project won approval last May? Locals know nothing about it,” said Nattaporn Artharn, coordinator of the Ban Na Mun-Dun Sad Environmental Conservation Group.
In a statement, the group condemned government officials, police, soldiers and firms owned by foreigners, saying they had deeply hurt the hearts of local people.
“Locals are now grieving over the fact that they can’t protect their hometown,” the statement said.
Nattaporn said hundreds of people from Ban Na Mun and Tambon Dun Sad have been camping out for days along the road to block drilling gear being transported to the planned drill well. But last Saturday, and again yesterday, about 200 soldiers, police and volunteers appeared to ensure trucks carrying heavy equipment could pass through the protest to the drilling site.
Some soldiers were seen wearing hoods as they helped the trucks move past the demonstrators, who sat beside the road, begged and prayed for understanding, she said.
Srisuwan Janya, head of the Association of Organisations for the Protection of Thailand’s Constitution, said his group would call on the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) today to take action against several officials for facilitating the transport of drilling equipment to the well site despite strong resistance from locals.
“These officials have favoured Apico [Khorat] to the point that they violate several laws,” he said.
The officials’ moves were breaches of the interim constitution, the NACC Act, Highway Act and Environment Act, he said.
The Environment Act, for example, requires that any activity stated in the EIA be carried out only when locals are informed at least 15 days in advance.
Srisuwan said the Khon Kaen police chief, superintendent of the Kranuan Police Station, director of the Internal Security Operations Command’s Khon Kaen branch, head of the Dun Sad Tambon Administration Organisation, head of the Rural Roads Department, transport and energy ministers, head of the Mineral Fuels Department and many other officials should be punished over what happened in Ban Na Dun.
Apico (Khorat) has said it has proceeded in line with the law and already has a concession to operate in the area. It plans to start drilling work before the end of this month.
“We will try to create mutual understanding with locals first,” the firm’s representative said.