NHRC fears clashes at project's hearing

NHRC fears clashes at project's hearing

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed concern that rights violations might mar today's public hearing into a controversial industrial estate planned for Songkhla's Chana district.

In the past violence has occurred between supporters and opponents of similar projects.

"We have closely monitored the situation in case it leads to human rights violations in the southern border province," Som Promrot, the human rights commissioner declared.

"We do hope that all stakeholders will exercise human right principles -- the right to participation, community rights and freedom of expression based on the country's interests. There must be acceptance and peace among all parties."

The public hearing, organised by the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC), the state agency that supports the building of the industrial estate, is taking place at a school in Chana district. The same agency is tasked with promoting peace in the restive southern province.

The public hearing is being held to sound out public reaction towards the planned industrial estate, which is proposed to be built on 10,800 rai in the coastal fishery district.

NHRC has urged SBPAC to organise the event with transparency, showing both the pros and cons of the project, accompanied by a clear explanation in detail and with the discussion opened for supporters and opponents to express their opinions.

Meanwhile, security officials should carefully make sure their actions don't lead to confrontations, violence and human rights violations, said the NHRC.

Participants should also give due respect to the peaceful expression of opinions in a way that avoids violence, the NHRC added.

The cabinet in May last year approved in principle the Chana model city of future industry proposed by SBPAC, expressing its hope that it could be a hub for future technology such as robotics, renewable energy, train-making and deep seaports.

Ekkachai Isarata, secretary-general of NGO-COD in the south, said the project was opposed because the authority had changed the zoning of the land from agricultural to industrial, "which is not fair for the locals who need to have their green space for earning and living".

He accused politicians of backing the project because they had already bought land nearby.

"Local people don't oppose economic development but it should be in line with the local's livelihoods of fishing and farming." he said.

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