Klity Creek villagers win 19-year legal battle

Villagers gather in front of Kanchanaburi Court after hearing the ruling on Monday. (Photo by Piyarach Chongcharoen)

KANCHANABURI: The Supreme Court has upheld lower courts’ decision to award 36 million baht in damages to 151 Thai-Karen villagers in Kanchanaburi's Thong Pha Phum district affected by a lead-contaminated creek.

The court’s Environment Division also ordered Lead Concentrates (Thailand) Co had to clean up and rehabilitate the polluted Klity Creek.  

The Kanchanaburi Court read the higher court's ruling to groups of Karen villagers and right activists on Monday.

The lead contamination of Klity Creek was exposed in 1998 when the Department of Mineral Resources ordered the closure of Lead Concentrates (Thailand) Co. The creek was contaminated by water illegally discharged from a nearby lead factory owned by the company.

Three lawsuits were lodged in connection with the case, two of which have already been finalised.

In January 2013, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered the Pollution Contol Department to pay nearly 4 million baht in compensation to 22 Karen villagers over lead contamination. 

The court found the department's handling of the Klity Creek incident reflected a lack of a proper emergency response plan, which caused harmful pollution to spread into the environment and affect nearby residents.

In July 2015, the Supreme Court's Environment Division ordered the now-bankrupt mining company to pay 20.2 million baht in compensation to eight villagers affected by the contamination. 

The ruling on Monday concluded the third lawsuit in which a group of 151 Karen villagers demanded over 1 billion baht in compensation for the damage.

In December 2010, the provincial court ordered the mining company to pay 36 million baht in compensation and the Appeal Court upheld the decision in February 2012.

Surapong Kongchantuk, director of the Karen Studies and Development Centre, said after the ruling that the court viewed that 151 plaintiffs from a total of around 300 villagers filed the case for public benefits in line with the indigenous right of local communities endorsed by the constitution.

Therefore, the company and its directors had the responsibility to restore the creek to its original standard set by the government.

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