Quarry plan 'intimidation' to be probed

Quarry plan 'intimidation' to be probed

Prayut to look into abduction reports

Conservationist Ekkachai Itsaratha
Conservationist Ekkachai Itsaratha

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday promised to investigate reports that a conservationist and media crews were intimidated and prevented from attending a public hearing for a quarrying project in Phatthalung province.

"I will look into it," the premier said, responding to a journalist's question about the alleged intimidation at the public hearing on Aug 5 at a mosque in Phatthalung's Pa Bon district.

Ekkachai Itsaratha, a conservationist, alleges he was abducted by a group of nearly 20 men on Aug 5 as he sought to participate at the hearing held by a mining company and officials from the Department of Primary Industries and Mines.

He claimed the group confiscated his car and mobile phone and detained him at a nearby resort for several hours until the hearing was over.

Mr Ekkachai, also secretary-general of the Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Committee on Development, on Tuesday filed a complaint with Songkhla police and petitioned Provincial Police Region 9 to launch an investigation.

He now suspects he is being followed, after spotting a suspicious-looking car near his house in Songkhla province.

"This is a serious issue as there are many similar public hearings ongoing in southern provinces. The government cannot let 'dark influences' challenge its power and ruin its image," Mr Ekkachai said.

His move came after a similar petition was lodged by the Association of Southern Newspaper Journalists (ASNJ) and Phatthalung Provincial Media Club on Tuesday last week. Local media outlets sent a petition to Kookiat Wongkrapan, the Phatthalung governor, asking for the matter to be investigated.

ASNJ president Chaiyong Maneepangsakul said that crews from Channel 7, Thai PBS, Amarin TV and local media were barred entry to the Aug 5 public hearing.

The TV crews instead made a detour to capture footage of Lad Toey waterfall, in the zone earmarked for the quarrying, but were followed and then asked by an unknown man to leave the area, said Mr Chaiyong.

Sophon Chingchit, secretary-general of the National Human Rights Commission, said such acts violated both basic civil rights and the Criminal Code.

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