Three acquitted of murder of coal-fired plant opponent

Three acquitted of murder of coal-fired plant opponent

Kornuma Pongnoi, the widow of slain anti-coal activist Charoen Wat-aksorn arrives at the Criminal Court on Tuesday morning with about 100 of supporters to hear the Supreme Court's final decision on three men accused of ordering the murder of her husband. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
Kornuma Pongnoi, the widow of slain anti-coal activist Charoen Wat-aksorn arrives at the Criminal Court on Tuesday morning with about 100 of supporters to hear the Supreme Court's final decision on three men accused of ordering the murder of her husband. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

The Supreme Court has confirmed the acquittal of three men charged with masterminding the murder of environmental activist Charoen Wat-aksorn, a leading opponent of coal-fired power plant projects in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.

In its ruling, read at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed charges against siblings Thanu Hinkaew and Manote Hinkaew and their father Juea Hinkaew.

The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Appeals Court in 2013, which cited lack of evidence because the two accused gunmen, Saneh Lekluan and Prajuab Hinkaew, had died while in prison in 2006 and their testimony could therefore not be verified.

In 2008 the Criminal Court sentenced Mr Thanu to death and acquitted Mr Manote and Mr Juea. Mr Thanu is a 53-year-old lawyer, Mr Manote, 49, is a former provincial councillor and Mr Juea, 78, a former head of Bo Nok sub-district where a coal-fired power plant was planned.

Charoen, a Prachuap Khiri Khan native, was shot dead at the age of 37 on June 21, 2004, as he got off a bus in Bo Nok, Muang district, Prachuap Khiri Khan province. On that day he went to Bangkok to seek an investigation into the issuance of title to land where a coal-fired power plant was planned. The Bo Nok administrative organisation supervises the land. 

Conservation protests by villagers led by Charoen succeeded in preventing construction of coal-fired power plants planned in Bo Nok and Hin Krud sub-district of Bang Saphan district by Gulf Electric Co.

Charoen's widow, Kornuma Pongnoi, told FM106 radio station after the final ruling that she would just have to live with the decision.

She would continue campaigning with other villagers to protect the environment at Bo Nok, despite the acquittal of the three men she held responsible for her husband's death.

The ruling did not come as a surprise to her or their supporters after the Appeals Court overturned the Criminal Court's judgement in 2013, Mrs Kornuma said.


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