Father, son convicted in mine assault case

Father, son convicted in mine assault case

Locals say cops mum on who hired men

The main violence took place on May 15, 2014, when men with close army connections led masked thugs to attack villagers protesting the Tungkum gold mine in northern Loei province. (Photo courtesy Protection International)
The main violence took place on May 15, 2014, when men with close army connections led masked thugs to attack villagers protesting the Tungkum gold mine in northern Loei province. (Photo courtesy Protection International)

The Loei Provincial Court handed down two and three-year jail sentences respectively to a father and son, both military defendants, in a high-profile attack on anti-mining villagers in 2014.

The public prosecutors and nine co-plaintiff villagers filed charges against Lt Col Poramin Pomnak and his father Lt Gen Poramet Pomnak, a retired officer, for physical assault and illegal possession of firearms among other charges, regarding a violent clash in Na Nong Bong village in Loei's Wang Saphung district on the night of May 15, 2014.

The court commuted the jail term of the father, Lt Gen Poramet, to one year for his useful testimony in the case.

The two convicts posted bail after hearing the verdict.

On the night of May 15, 2014, hundreds of unidentified men clashed with members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd -- a community-based group opposed to a local gold mine operated by Thai-owned Tungkum Ltd.

The men who came in support of the mine demolished barricades erected by the villagers to stop the mine's trucks getting out to deliver ore.

A number of villagers were held captive, threatened and physically assaulted.

Twenty-four villagers who were injured later lodged complaints and nine of them became co-plaintiffs in the suit. Only two people were arrested and prosecuted.

Sor Rattanamanee Goergoraon, the plaintiffs' lawyer, told the Bangkok Post the villagers were pleased that some justice was served in the community.

The judges cited witnesses who could identify the defendants, said Ms Sor.

"Although it was late at night, the incident took place just two nights after full moon so it was clear enough to see faces and figures.

"Also, the villagers remembered the face of the defendants as they had checked the defendants' information on their licence plates before," the lawyer said.

However, she noted the police should have worked harder to get to the core issue of who was behind transporting the ore and who invited the attackers.

"The court has put the incidents in the context that the clashes arose from efforts to quickly transport the ore out. Hundreds of people were involved in the melee, which injured at least 24 villagers, and lodged complaints, so why were only two people arrested?" she asked.

The villagers also felt the sentence handed down to the son, who is still in the military, was too light, she said.

"He's a military officer but still acted outrageously in violation of the law. A heavier sentence would serve as a warning to deter others from repeating the offence," said the lawyer.

The highest sentence for an armed assault charge is seven years. The ruling did not clearly specify who was thought to be responsible for hiring the men.

On reparations, the plaintiffs and prosecutor asked for three million baht, while the court decided on a total amount of 150,000 baht for nine people.

The Loei Provincial Court also read an appeal verdict upholding a ruling by the court of first instance dismissing a case which Tungkum Co filed against Samai Phakmee, chairman of the Khaolaung Local Administrative Council and Konglai Pakmee, a village headman of Na Nong Bong Village Moo 3, for alleged negligence of duty as state officials in allowing villagers to hang an anti-gold mining sign on the village entrance gate.

In Bangkok, the company's acting managing director appeared as the plaintiff in a preliminary hearing of a criminal defamation suit on Monday.

Tungkum has demanded 50 million baht in compensation from Thai PBS and four defendants, including the reporter, for allegedly distorting information in the station's reports about the gold mine.

The mining company also demanded Thai PBS be suspended from broadcasting for five years.

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