Conservationists seek UN help in quarry conflict

Conservationists seek UN help in quarry conflict

Conservationist Ekkachai Isaratha
Conservationist Ekkachai Isaratha

Conservationists on Monday submitted a letter to the United Nations calling for protection in their campaign against a limestone quarry project in Phatthalung province.

They made the move after key conservationist Ekkachai Isaratha, secretary-general of the Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Committee on Development, said he was abducted ahead of a public hearing about the project on Aug 5 in Tamot district.

Mr Ekkachai said a group of some 10 men confiscated his car and mobile phone and detained him at a nearby resort in Pa Bon district for three hours until the hearing was over.

He said he was intimidated and prevented from attending the hearing, adding the group also warned him not to go to the police or make any further move against the project.

Mr Ekkachai was speaking after he and other conservationists delivered the letter to a UN representative at the UN office in Bangkok on Monday.

"My life and family are now under threat from an influential group, so I decided to ask the international agency to help provide us with safety and protect the conservationist movement,'' he said.

"We consider this to be an international issue [so] we have the right to make this move.''

Mr Ekkachai said he had been forcibly denied his lawful right to attend the public hearing, to monitor whether it was conducted legally. He lodged a complaint with the Provincial Police Region 9 in Songkhla against those who allegedly abducted him.

Mr Ekkachai said that his organisation and its network had called on all related agencies to help protect the work of conservationists and prevent further intimidation.

He said the UN representative pledged to contact provincial officials to help ensure safety for him and his family members, adding that he had nevertheless left Phatthalung for the time being.

Mr Ekkachai said he also led activists in petitioning the Office of the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the case.

Local police have issued arrest warrants for three suspects in connection with the abduction.

The activists say the 60-rai quarry project will damage a forest watershed crucial to local water supplies.

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