Final round victory for Karen villagers

Final round victory for Karen villagers

The Supreme Administrative Court Thursday ordered the Pollution Control Department (PCD) to pay nearly 4 million baht in compensation to 22 Karen villagers over lead contamination at Klity Creek.

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Twenty-two ethnic Karen villagers affected by lead contamination in lower Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi’s Thong Pha Phum district celebrate their victory in a nine-year court battle against the Pollution Control Department at the Supreme Administrative Court yesterday. They also carry pictures of children suffering from lead poisoning in their village. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD

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Lead contamination victims win historic B4m payout

Apinya Wipatayotin

The Supreme Administrative Court Thursday ordered the Pollution Control Department (PCD) to pay nearly 4 million baht in compensation to 22 Karen villagers over lead contamination at Klity Creek.

The verdict ended a nine-year legal battle between the PCD and the locals, with no more avenues of appeal available.

Klity Creek, in Kanchanaburi's Thong Pha Phum district, was contaminated by water illegally discharged from a nearby lead factory operated by Lead Concentrate Co. The Department of Mineral Resources ordered the closure of the company in 1998, the same year the lead contamination was exposed.

The Central Administrative Court ruled in 2008 that the PCD was guilty of negligence for being too slow to clean up the lead-contaminated creek. The court ordered the department to pay compensation of 33,783 baht to each of the 22 victims, a total of 743,226 baht.

Both sides appealed against the decision to the Supreme Administrative Court.

The court Thursday upheld the lower court's ruling that the PCD was guilty of negligence for its slow clean-up operation, thus depriving the 22 Karen of water for personal use and consumption.

The court, however, increased the amount of compensation to be paid to each victim to 177,199.55 baht.

The court arrived at the higher figure by increasing the food allowance to be paid by the PCD from 350 baht per month to 700 baht a month. The compensation period was also extended from three years to 11 years, from 2002 to 2012.

Karen villagers enter the Supreme Administrative Court to await its verdict. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD

The court also ordered the PCD to pay 1,000 baht a month for nine years, from 2004 to 2012, for the loss of opportunity for the residents to make use of natural and biological resources.

The court found that it took the PCD nine months after learning about the lead contamination to seek permission from the Royal Forest Department to rehabilitate the creek. Moreover, the PCD delayed the construction of a dyke to block lead-contaminated sediment from spreading further. The dyke was built in 2004, three years after the National Environment Board approved its construction, the court said.

The PCD's handling of the Klity Creek incident reflected the lack of a proper emergency response plan, which caused harmful pollution to spread into the environment and severely affect nearby residents, the court ruled. Affected residents were forced to buy drinking water and food as the water and aquatic animals in the creek were contaminated.

"Apart from paying compensation to residents, the PCD must act urgently to clean up the creek and bring lead levels back to acceptable levels. This includes testing lead levels in the water, creek sediment, fish and plants for at least one year and publicising the results to the locals," the court said.

ethnic – of a group of people with the same culture or traditions กลุ่มชาติพันธุ์
lead – a chemical element. Lead is a heavy soft grey metal, used especially in the past for water pipes or to cover roofs สารตะกั่ว
contamination – the process of making something dirty, polluted, or poisonous by adding a chemical, waste, or infection การปนเปื้อน
Administrative Court – the court which deals with disputes between the private sector and government agencies ศาลปกครอง
suffer – to experience something very unpleasant or painful ประสบ
victim – someone who has been affected by a bad situation, such as a disaster, illness or an accident เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
compensation – money that someone receives because something bad has happened to them  เงินชดเชย
creek – a narrow stream; a very small river  ลำธาร โกรกธารเล็กๆ
verdict – a decision by a court of law คำพิพากษา
legal – relating to the law เกี่ยวกับกฎหมาย
avenue – a method or way of doing something; a possibility วิธีการ, ลู่ทาง
appeal – to make a request that a court change a decision of a lower court ยื่นอุทธรณ์
illegally – in a way that is against the law อย่างผิดกฎหมาย
discharge – to let a liquid flow out ปล่อยออก, ขับออก
concentrate – a substance that is made stronger because water or other substances have been removed สิ่งที่ถูกทำให้มีความเข้มข้นขึ้น
mineral – a valuable or useful chemical substance which is formed naturally in the ground แร่
resources – things such as coal, trees and oil that exist in nature and can be used by people ทรัพยากร
exposed – made known; uncovered เปิดเยต่อ
rule – (of a court or other group with similar authority) to make and announce a decision ตัดสิน, พิพากษา, ชี้ขาด
guilty – proven to have committed a crime มีความผิด
negligence – when you do not give enough care or attention to someone or something ความประมาท, ความไม่เอาใจใส่
uphold – to say that a decision by a lower court or a government agency is correct พิพากษายืนตามคำตัดสินหรือวินิจฉัยของศาลชั้นต้น
deprive – to prevent someone from having something ทำให้ไม่ได้รับ
consumption – using, eating or drinking something การบริโภค
allowance – an amount of money that someone receives in order to pay for the things that they need  เงินสนับสนุน
extend – to add more time ยืดออกไป
opportunity – a chance to do something, or a situation in which it is easy for you to do something  โอกาส
residents – people living in a particular area ประชาชนผู้อยู่อาศัยในบริเวณ
permission – allowing someone to do something การอนุญาต,การอนุมัติ,การยินยอม
rehabilitate – to return someone or something to a good or healthy condition, state or way of living ฟื้นฟูสุขภาพ
delay – to make something happen at a later time than originally expected หน่วง, ซื้อเวลา, ยืดเวลา
construction – the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง
dyke – a wall built to prevent the sea, river of flood water from covering an area เขื่อนกั้นน้ำ
sediment – a soft substance that is like a wet powder and consists of very small pieces of a solid material which have fallen to the bottom of a liquid ตะกอน
spread – to gradually affect or cover a larger area แพร่กระจาย
approve – to give official permission อนุมัต
incident – something that happens, usually something bad เหตุการณ์
reflect – to show สะท้อน แสดงถึง
lack – to not have something needed  ขาด
emergency – an unexpected situation involving danger in which immediate action is necessary เหตุฉุกเฉิน
response – a reaction to something that has happened or been said การตอบสนอง
severe – very serious and unpleasant รุนแรง
aquatic – growing or living in or near water เกี่ยวกับน้ำ
urgent – needing to be dealt with immediately ที่เร่งด่วน
level – the amount of something that exists in a particular situation at a particular time  ระดับ
publicise – to make information about something generally available เผยแพร่, ประกาศ
locals – people who live in a particular place ชาวบ้าน

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