By THE SUNDAY NATION
The suspension order was issued on December 13, 2016 on the grounds that the operation had caused environmental and health problems to residents in the area. Australia’s Kingsgate Consolidated, which owns Akara Resources, later accused the Thai government of violating the Thai-Australia Free Trade Agreement for failing to follow the proper procedure when it shut down the gold mine.
However, Pasu Lahachun, permanent secretary of the Industry Ministry, said the order was lawful and legitimate because it was aimed at protecting the environment and residents’ quality of life and was in accordance with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
He said the industry, foreign affairs and justice ministries, as well as other related agencies, would team up with lawyers to defend the NCPO’s order in the international arbitration committee that will resolve the conflict under the two countries’ free-trade agreement.
Akara Resources’ mining operation in Thailand was closed on January 1 this year due to an NCPO order which Pasu said had also resolved local residents’ conflicts concerning the mining operation so the order was not intended to damage the private sector’s business as alleged. However, the Thai government still hoped the conflict would be resolved in an amicable way if Kingsgate Consolidated abided by Thai laws on environmental and public health protection.
Previously, Kingsgate Consolidated’s operation in Thailand was promoted by Thailand’s Board of Investment with tax and other privileges but its Thai operation was also fined by Thai authorities for violating environmental, factory and other related laws prior to being suspended.