Klity Creek polluter may not pay, lawyer fears

Lawyer Surapong Kongchantuk and Karen villagers living near Klity Creek come out of the courthouse in Kanchanaburi after hearing the Supreme Court ruling read out by the provincial court on Monday. (Photo by Piyarach Chongcharoen)

The lawyer for a group of villagers in Kanchanaburi who won a 10-year lawsuit against a mining company for polluting their land and water says he is prepared to take further legal action if the company does not pay up.

Surapong Kongchantuk, the lawyer for 151 ethnic Karen villagers living near Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi, said Tuesday he is not confident that Lead Concentrates Co will pay the 36 million baht in compensation ordered by the Supreme Court because its representatives did not even show up for the court's verdict.

The court on Monday ruled in favour of the villagers, whose lawsuit charged that the company's mining waste polluted the creek, contaminating soil and harming villagers and aquatic animals. The lead mine and treatment factory was established in 1967.

“According to the process, they (the plaintiffs) should be compensated immediately but I'm not sure whether they (the defendants) will pay,” Mr Surapong said. “They have not cooperated with us. They did not even come to court yesterday.”

The case against Lead Concentrates Co was first filed in 2007, said Mr Surapong, who is director of the Karen Studies and Development Centre. A separate court ruling in January 2013 ordered the Thai government to oversee the creek's rehabilitation and pay 36 million baht in compensation to villagers.

Mr Surapong said the 2013 ruling instructed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Pollution Control Department to clean up the creek within three months.

“But four years have passed now and the Pollution Control Department has not even begun the rehabilitation process yet,” he said.

An official at the department, who works on the issue but declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said department officials will go to the village, 300 kilometres west of Bangkok, later this month to inform residents how the rehabilitation process will be conducted.

The official said the creek's rehabilitation has been delayed because of budgetary reasons.

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