Court rules in favour of pipeline protesters
The Royal Thai Police (RTP) must pay compensation to 24 villagers for using force to break up their protest against the Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline in 2002, the Supreme Administrative Court has ruled.
- Published: 17/01/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
This was a scene from the chaotic protest against the southern pipeline in 2002, described by the Supreme Administrative Court as a case of violence by police against citizens. (File photo)
The court's verdict, read Wednesday, brings an end to a 10-year legal battle waged by the villagers' group.
The residents accused the police of using force to disperse the protest, which resulted in many injuries.
The Songkhla Administrative Court read out the verdict yesterday.
The police must pay the protesters 100,000 baht in total.
The verdict upholds a 2006 ruling by the Administrative Court concerning the protest, which was held outside the JB Hat Yai Hotel.
Police said the villagers were armed and blocked traffic, making the use of force necessary. The court ruled the gathering was peaceful.
Although slingshots, lead balls, sharpened sticks and a few swords were found at the scene, the items could not be used to substantiate the police claim that the protesters were systematically armed to fight the authorities, it said.
The court found no evidence to prove the villagers were "ordered" to prepare weapons to use in the protest.
It also found the villagers had sharpened their flag poles to put up a fight only after the police began using force to disperse them.
Swords were found only on a few villagers, which indicated they were not systematically armed.
The court said the police did not follow proper procedures in dealing with protesters, which usually start with soft measures before escalating.
Instead, the police used aggressive force to disperse the gathering, leading to damage and injuries.
"We did not find the locals possessed dangerous weapons," the court said.
"Nor was there any plan by the villagers to stir up riots.
"It is obvious the dispersal was against the law.
"The RTP must pay 100,000 baht to the 24 local people."
Suraida Tohlee, 60, said she was happy with the verdict as it showed the residents' duty to protect their community's natural resources was protected by law.
"I have suffered since the clash, especially from police harassment. My family chose to live for years in the forest for safety reasons.
"I am glad to be able to follow the principle of saving a traditional way of life for our community," she said.
Ms Suraida said many in her community are suffering health problems from inhaling toxic air pollutants from the gas power plant nearby.
Sutaporn Malailoy, a coordinator of the Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants (EnLAW), said the agency is considering lodging a complaint with police against the gas power plant, which it regards as harming the health of local villagers.
About the author
- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin
- Position: Reporter