This statement originates from the solidarity activity held at Ban Haeng, Lampang on June 9, 2016 organized by Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Protection International (PI) and Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) which was attended by more than 100 villagers, the community-based Rak Ban Heng organisation and human rights defenders from nine (9) countries.
WE, the undersigned members of Asia Pacific civil society, representing different constituencies, movements and organisations, express our solidarity with the Ban Haeng community opposing the coal mine in Tambon Ban Haeng, Ngao District, Lampang and condemn the threats and harassment committed against the villagers and community organisers in the area.
Since 2010, the community members of Ban Haeng have been vocal in their opposition to the proposed coal mining project in their area. In the absence of due process and genuine community consultation, the people living and farming the area have organized into the Rak Ban Heng Conservation Group. The group aims to ensure the conservation of the forests, natural resources, the environment, community and traditional culture and values. The community is steadfast in opposing the lignite mining because of the destructive nature of the project which is expected to have a huge impact on the health and livelihood of the community.
Despite community resistance, a mining concession was granted to Green Yellow Co. Ltd. in August 2015 by the Ministry of Industry. On October 22, 2015, 386 villagers filed a complaint at the Chiang Mai Administrative Court, requesting the court to revoke the concession permit and to issue a temporary injunction against mining operations in the village. As the exploratory concession expires in August 2016, the tensions between the corporation and the State on the one hand and the community on the other continue to rise.
Various forms of intimidation, including close physical surveillance by unidentified men, harassment from military officers, threats of death and enforced disappearance have been made to Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs). Among the WHRDs who have experienced harassment is Waewrin Buangern who has pending criminal complaints against her but to date has not received sufficient assistance from the Thai Justice Fund to pay for bail and legal fees.
This pattern of harassing environmental and women human rights defenders is not unique to Ban Haeng. In 2014, Southeast Asia was considered among the riskiest places to be a human rights activist, with 21 recorded killings in Thailand alone. Last week, on World Environmental Day, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs highlighted the alarming trend of targeting environmental human rights defenders “as if they were enemies of the State”. They urged states to meet their obligations to protect environmental rights, defenders and members of marginalized and vulnerable communities.
The struggle in Ban Haeng contributes to global campaigns for climate justice, energy democracy and Development Justice. The solidarity activity held in Ban Haeng amplifies the call for a feminist fossil fuel free future – a future that empowers women; a future that paves the way for redistribution of power from the elite to the many; and a future that is free from dirty energies and dirty, exploitative economies.
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