The 5th Anniversary of the Murder of
Campaign Committee for Human Rights-CCHR
On June 21st of each year, a ceremony is held in remembrance of Charoen Wat-aksorn, who was shot dead in 2004 in
Charoen Wat-aksorn, a prominent environmentalist and president of the group Rak Thongthin Bo-nok, led a decade-long campaign against the construction of two coal-fired power plant projects in Prachuap Khiri Khan, which resulted in the government deciding to relocate the projects to other provinces. On the day of his murder, Charoen had met with the House Committee on Corruption Investigation in order to encourage them to open investigations into accusations of corruption against local leaders following the election of project opponents within the local administration. Charoen had also lodged several complaints with the Minister of the Interior, the National Counter Corruption Commission and with different committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Charoens family and human rights groups believe that influential persons are behind his murder. Shortly after the murder, two gunmen were arrested and admitted to the killing, saying that it was due to a personal grudge and committed while they were drunk. However, local people and members of Charoens environmental group, Rak Thongthin Bo-nok, claim that the pattern of the murder resembles that of a hired kill, and believe that Charoen was murdered under the orders of influential local businesspeople and politicians. Later, the police arrested two brothers who were active in politics and local business and are alleged to have been behind the killing. Under greater pressure, the authorities transferred the case to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), part of the Ministry of Justice, on 30 July 2004. The two gunmen mysteriously died in 2006 while detained in prisons. Police said that they died of immune deficiency syndrome, but there were no autopsies to confirm the cause. The other three individuals who have been accused are in prison and currently going through the appeal process. However, it can be believed that there are other masterminds of the murder that were acquitted due to lack of evidence. This is a very important case for human rights in
The murder of Charoen Wat-aksorn led to an expansion of civil society in opposition to mega-projects which disrupt ecological systems and destroy local ways of life. This has led to development of a civil society alliance forming an environmental protection network in the southern provinces and other areas.
On June 20-21, the commemoration of Charoen Wat-aksorns death took place at Wat See Yak Bo Nok,
Following a speech by Korn-uma Pongnoi, there was a seminar on the topic The Wounds Caused by the Eastern Seaboard and Country Development. It was a panel discussion about lessons from the Eastern Seaboard industrialization and what ordinary citizens can do when facing the imminent industrialization imposed under the guise of the Southern Seaboard program. Mega-projects are always justified with the claim that they lead to job creation, but local villagers think that it is unnecessary because they already have their own jobs. On the contrary, such projects cause environmental pollution and health problems. The acid rain causes the people to break out in a rash and make leaves burn, said Noi Jaitung who is a local villager. Becoming an industrial zone also may cause various social problems in Rayong.
In the afternoon, there was another seminar on the topic The Southern Seaboard and the Direction of Southern People. Heavy industries of the Southern Seaboard will inevitably destroy marine life and artisanal fishery. Furthermore, they also emit pollution that has a significant impact on the environment. The local people do not deny the importance of development. They just want to take part in the planning process.
The coal-fired power plant at Bonok-Ban Krud is just to be a part of the Southern Seaboard. The local people are not only fighting with the view that development is always launched from the center, but also against the power held by and the exploitation committed by influential people. The objective of this day of memorial is to raise the southern peoples awareness of their community rights and to oppose the Southern Seaboard, which will lead to the collapse of the local communitys way of life.