Indigenous Community Mounts Legal Challenge to Thailand Coal Mine Development

Environmental News from Asia: 

  • Villagers in northern Thailand have filed a lawsuit against authorities who approved an allegedly faulty environmental impact assessment for a coal mine project that they say would destroy farmland, divert watercourses, and affect long-term human health.
  • The project has been in the planning pipeline for two decades, but only became public in 2019; the Indigenous Karen community in Kabeudin village has opposed the coal mining project ever since.
  • The lawsuit alleges the 10-year-old EIA was conducted and approved with virtually no participation from potentially impacted communities and omitted crucial information about the environment and the natural resources on which the community depends.
  • Observers say the case is an example of the rural population’s growing awareness of their rights and of legal processes that hold companies and government departments accountable to the law and to climate commitments.

Local opposition to a planned coal mine in northern Thailand escalated in April when plaintiffs representing more than 600 villagers filed a lawsuit requesting the revocation of an environmental impact assessment conducted and approved more than 10 years ago.

Members of Kabeudin village, an Indigenous Karen community in Omkoi district, Chiang Mai province, filed the lawsuit against the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) and the EIA Expert Review Committee on April 4, stating that the environmental impact analysis (EIA) is outdated and was conducted and approved with little to no participation from the local communities that will be impacted.

The villagers also allege the EIA report omitted crucial information about the communities themselves and the natural resources on which they depend, including their rights to clean air and water.

The legal challenge is the latest in the community’s efforts to oppose the coal mining project. Although discussions between Thai-owned 99 Thuwanon Company and government authorities have been ongoing for more than two decades, villagers only learned about the project in 2019. They promptly founded the Omkoi Anti-Coal Mine Network and mobilized to gather and disseminate information about the development and its potential impact.

Observers say the case is an example of the rural population’s growing awareness of their rights and of legal processes that hold companies and government departments accountable to the law.

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Source: Mongabay

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