Yet another environmental crusader slain
Yet another self-made environmental protection activist has fallen – this time at the hand of a gunman believed to have been hired by local businessmen and politicians involved in the dumping of toxic industrial waste in Chachoengsao province.
- Published: 26/02/2013 at 11:44 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
The victim, 43-year old Prajob Nao-opas, was village headman of moo 14, tambon Nong Haen, Phanom Sarakham district. He was murdered in broad daylight on Monday by a gunman at an automobile garage on the Phanom Sarakham-Ban Sang road as he was waiting for mechanics to complete repairs to his pickup truck.
Witnesses told police the gunman and another man arrived at the garage in a black Honda Accord. Both of them approached Prajob and one of them fired four shots from an 11mm semi-automatic pistol at the headman, who died shortly after he was rushed to the district hospital. The two killers escaped in their car.
Prajob Nao-opas was shot dead on Monday at an automobile garage in Chachoengsao province. (Post Today photo)
Two months before he was slain on Monday, Prajob bought two pistols for self defence because he sensed he was being shadowed and that his life might be in danger.
Prajob was the core leader of villagers protesting against the illegal dumping of toxic industrial waste at a garbage tip in their community in tambon Nong Haen. Their protest prompted the Industry Ministry to transfer some officials out of Chachoengsao province and the landfill was closed to the toxic-waste dumpers.
Although police are yet to officially determine the motive for the environmental crusader’s murder, villagers in tambon Nong Haen believe his key role in protesting against the dumping of toxic waste is the reason he was gunned down.
The case is not a complicated one and I believe it is not beyond the efficiency of the local police to track down the killer and, more importantly, to nail the mastermind who ordered the murder.
But sadly, in most cases involving hired killers the masterminds go free because the killers themselves do not implicate them even if they are caught, or because there is insufficient evidence linking the killer with the person or persons who ordered the hit.
Challenging the local mafia-type figures - influential businessmen and politicians and the corrupt officials working hand in glove with them to plunder our natural resources such as forests, or to poison our environment through dumping of toxic waste or other illegal activity - is very risky, and clearly often life-threatening for the core leaders. It requires a lot of courage and dedication from the men and women who dare to lead the protests against these self-serving people.
Prajob is the latest victim of the environmental cause. He has joined the long list of at least 28 others who have been slain since 1995 fighting to protect the environment of their communities against those who plunder it, or defending the rights of the underprivileged.
The following is just a partial list of the victims:-
Thongnark Sawekchinda, shot dead two years ago in Samut Sakhon for leading a protest against a polluting coal facility and coal carting business in the province; Phra Supote Suvajo, murdered for his role in resisting an attempt by an influential figure to grab his monastery’s land in Fang district in Chiang Mai; Charoen Wat-aksorn, shot dead for leading a protest against the coal-fired power plant project in Prachuap Khiri Khan in 2004; Pakvipa Chalermklin, killed for her role in protesting against the building of a pier to accommodate sand barges in Ang Thong in 2004; and Samnao Srisongkram, slain for his role in protesting against the pollution of the Nam Pong river in Khon Kaen by local industry.
My sincere condolences to Prajob's family. I can just hope his untimely death will inspire others in the environmental protection movement to continue the fight against corruption, the selfish indifference to the needs of others and the pollution that invariably accompanies it.
And it's probably just wishful thinking, but I sincerely hope that the death of Prajob, and so many others before him, finally serves as a wake-up call to the government and state officials - of the need to be more conscious of the damage being done and more committed to the protection of our natural resources and environment - so that the likes of these fallen men and women no longer have to risk their lives to do the job that should have been done by the government and those officials in the first place.
About the author
- Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
- Position: Former Editor