Quantcast
Energy

Justice Denied for Murdered Thai Activist Who Defended His Community Against Coal

The recent Thai Supreme Court acquittal of three men who masterminded the murder of environmental activist Charoen Wat-aksorn, shows a skewed justice system that puts capitalism in front of community. But this is not the only case of the forced silence of environmentalists.

On June 21, 2004, Charoen Wat-aksorn, a 37-year-old pineapple farmer from Bo Nok village in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, some 240 km [150 miles] south of Bangkok, was returning by bus to his hometown. He had just been in the capital to testify before a parliamentary anti-corruption panel as to how local politicians were colluding with business figures to conduct illegal land grabs.

Charoen Wat-aksorn being interviewed as part of a documentary by Greenpeace (2002). Photo credit: Yvan Cohen / Greenpeace

As the leading opponent of coal-fired power plant projects in his province, Charoen was a thorn in the side of companies who wanted to raze land and kick out communities. For a decade he fought, fended off bribes, survived multiple threats and mobilized tens of thousands of villagers to lead blockades. In 2002, bowing to pressure, the Thaksin government announced they would postpone plans, eventually scrapping the coal power plant projects in Bo Nok and in neighboring village, Ban Krut.

But on that day in June as Charoen alighted from the Bo Nok bus station after simply standing up for what he believed in, he was shot.

The two accused gunmen, Saneh Lekluan and Prachuab Hinkaew, who confessed to the assassination, mysteriously died in 2006 just before they were due to testify, though any formal proof of their cause of death was not presented.

In 2008, Thanu Hinkaew, a 53-year-old lawyer, was convicted and sentenced to death. His sibling, Manote Hinkaew, 49, a former provincial councillor, and their father Juea Hinkaew, 78, a former head of a Bo Nok sub-district where a coal-fired power plant was planned, were acquitted.

But over a lengthy appeals process, on Oct. 13, the Supreme Court delivered the final verdict. Due to lack of evidence, the ruling was upheld and all three men were acquitted.

"For the past 11 years following the case of Charoen Wat-aksorn's murder, we have realized that the Thai justice system is incapable of prosecuting the perpetrators and victims can hardly expect any protection," said his wife Korn-uma Pongnoi.

Korn-uma Pongnoi (front), arrives at the Supreme Court along with hundreds of supporters. Photo credit: Chanklang Kanthong / Greenpeace

Charoen, like other activists, has risked all to protect his community and the environment. According to a 2014 Global Witness report, "on average two people are killed every week defending their land, forests and waterways against the expansion of large-scale agriculture, dams, mining, logging and other threats." Between 2002 and 2013, 16 Thai environmentalists were murdered.

But for these dedicated activists, the dangers of coal are worth fighting for. Two recent reports from Greenpeace show that in Indonesia, existing coal plants cause an estimated 7,100 premature deaths every year; and in Vietnam, an estimated 4,300 premature deaths. A similar coal report from Thailand is currently being researched.

Hundreds of locals join Greenpeace activists on Thap Sakae Beach, Prachuab Khiri Khan province to protest against plans to build a 4,000 MW coal-fired plant in Thapsakae (2008). Photo credit: Vinai Dithajohn / Greenpeace

Non-violence is a core value of Greenpeace. Across the world, from Indonesia, Poland, Australia, Hong Kong and many other countries, activists have staged protests to end the destruction of coal mines on health and the environment. The age of coal is over, and we call for the use of renewable energy as a clean, green alternative to unsustainable and dangerous fossil fuels.

At the Supreme Court hearing in front of more than 100 Bo Nok villagers who gathered to hear the final decision, all wearing green t-shirts screen-printed with the slain activist's image, Korn-uma declared:

"Thailand's skewed justice system must be promptly reformed from the investigation process to the judicial process at all levels to make them transparent, or else wicked people will be scot-free while innocent people are detained."

Korn-uma Pongnoi, Charoen Wat-akson's wife, gives a statement to the media. Photo credit: Chanklang Kanthong / Greenpeace

This is unconscionable. We stand with the brave activists in Thailand—and around the world—who are fighting for a green and peaceful world.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Groups Gather at Nation’s Capitol to Pressure Congress to Ban Fracking on Public Lands

MIT Students: We’re Sitting-In at President Reif’s Door Until He Divests From Fossil Fuels

Apple to Clean Up Act in China With Huge Investments in Renewable Energy

David Suzuki: ‘Democracy Is as Strong as the People Who Make Its Values Come Alive’

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Mackinac Bridge from Straits of Mackinac. Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Gov. Signs Bill to Keep Line 5 Pipeline Flowing

Michigan's outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Wednesday that creates a new government authority to oversee a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to effectively allow Canadian oil to keep flowing through the Great Lakes.

The controversial tunnel will encase a replacement segment for Enbridge Energy's aging Line 5 pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The illegal La Pampa gold mine, seen here in 2017, has devastated the Peruvian Amazon and spread poisonous mercury. Planet Labs

Unprecedented New Map Unveils Illegal Mining Destroying Amazon

A first-of-its-kind map has unveiled widespread environmental damage and contamination of the Amazon rainforest caused by the rise illegal mining.

The survey, released Monday by the Amazon Socio-Environmental Geo-Referenced Information Project (RAISG), identifies at least 2,312 sites and 245 areas of prospecting or extraction of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan in six Amazonian countries—Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It also identified 30 rivers affected by mining and related activities.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Mako sharks killed at the South Jersey Shark Tournament in June 2017. Lewis Pugh

Shark Fishing Tournaments Devalue Ocean Wildlife and Harm Marine Conservation Efforts

By Rick Stafford

Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are—far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Sen. Joe Manchin and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts held a press conference on Oct. 3, 2017. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Coal-Friendly Manchin Named Top Dem on Senate Energy Panel

After weeks of discord over the potential appointment, Sen. Joe Manchin, the pro-coal Democrat of West Virginia, was named the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday.

Many Democrats and environmental groups were adamantly opposed to Manchin serving as the top Democrat on the committee that oversees policies on climate change, public lands and fossil fuel production.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Hikers on the Mt. Hollywood Trail in Griffin Park, Calif. while a brush fire burned in the Angeles National Forest on Aug. 26, 2009. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Major Health Study Shows Benefits of Combating Climate Change

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There's something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Employees of Rural Renewable Energy Alliance working together with students and faculty of Leech Lake Tribal Collage to construct solar panels, 2017. Ryan James White

A Tribe in Northern Minnesota Shows the Country How to Do Community Solar

By Susan Cosier

Last summer on a reservation in northern Minnesota, students from Leech Lake Tribal College earned their solar installation licenses while they dug, drilled and connected five photovoltaic arrays. The panels shine blue on the plain, reflecting the sky as they generate roughly 235 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to help 100 families pay their energy bills. This is community solar in action.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Arches National Park. Chris Dodds / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump Auctions Off 150,000 Acres of Public Lands for Fracking Near Utah National Parks

On Tuesday the Trump administration offered more than 150,000 acres of public lands for fossil-fuel extraction near some of Utah's most iconic landscapes, including Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Vanderford glacier in East Antarctica is one of four that is beginning to melt, according to NASA. Angela Wylie / Fairfax Media / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Melting Discovered in East Antarctic Region Holding Ice 'Equivalent to Four Greenlands'

Ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica have been melting at alarming rates in recent years, but at least the glaciers of East Antarctica were believed to be relatively stable. Until now. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have discovered that glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast have lost ice in the past 10 years. If the region keeps melting, it has enough ice in its drainage basins to add 28 meters (approximately 92 feet) to global sea level rise, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!