Still helping miners while helping themselves

16 03 2016

Readers may recall that the now head of the Thailand Football Association, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang has long business relationships with mining companies, at least one having Australian connections. Back at the time of his retirement as Thailand’s top cop, and one of its wealthiest policemen (never investigated for his “unusual wealth”), we had a link to a long-running dispute between gold miners and villagers in three northern provinces.

Somyos was known to have ordered police to support companies he had previously worked with. This usually involved threats to local villagers and to mining opponents. It seems that little has changed following Somyos having moved from police to football – both arenas offer substantial rewards for leaders.

A recent report at Prachatai refers to community groups still in conflict with miners in the three provinces. The reports states that “[b]lood examination results of villagers residing in an area with a prolonged mining conflict show that hundreds of people have been contaminated with excessive heavy metallic substances.” The company involved is Akara Resources, associated with the Australian miner, Kingsgate.

The item in the report that caught PPT’s attention was the role of the police and military:

Earlier this month, 20 military, police, and other officers visited Tanyarat Sintathammatat, a key leader of an anti-mine activist group in Phichit.

The officers arrived at the house in Khao Ched Luk Subdistrict in Tap Khlo District of Phichit at night without presenting any documents or warrants.

The activist said then that the officers told her not to travel to Bangkok to submit a petition to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, against the mining operations of Akara Company.

So much stays the same under a military dictatorship that offers “protection” to business elites for a price. If the current military junta has its way, an appointed senate, stuffed with past and serving military bosses and with a bureaucracy in charge of, well, all things, expect more of this income sharing.