Mekong Utility Watch

Dam protesters attacked

The Nation
November 20, 2000

Villagers were injured when baton-wielding men forcibly evicted Pak Mool dam opponents from the dam site in Ubon Ratchathani and set fire to their makeshift wooden shelters, witnesses said.

About 30 villagers were injured, at least two of them seriously, when scores of baton-wielding men forcibly evicted Pak Mool Dam opponents from the dam site in Ubon Ratchathani yesterday morning and set fire to their makeshift wooden shelters, witnesses said. The attackers, who were alleged to have been paid by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to neutralise the protest site, stormed the Mae Mool Man Yuen 7 and Mae Mool Man Yuen 1 camps at around 5 am and 11 am respectively. After forcing the villagers out, they started dismantling the shelters or setting them ablaze. A makeshift school was also destroyed.

Hundred of families had occupied the area to show their opposition to the controversial dam project. Egat has said their presence created security concerns.

The raids yesterday took place when only women and elderly villagers were in the camps. Most of the male villagers had left the area for harvesting work.

The villagers regrouped before noon not far from their seized camps. Tensions ran high as the two groups hurled stones and fired slingshots at each other.

The police later deployed security forces in the area and brought the situation under control.

Villagers said those who resisted the eviction were assaulted, and up to 30 people were injured. Some protesters told Ubon Ratchathani Senator Niran Pitakwatchara that the attackers used guns and knives. “I saw a 70-year-old man run away with his belongings. When I tried to help, several men armed with knives and batons attacked me,” said Dusadee Chanthong, a wounded villager. “I also heard that a villager was stabbed and seriously hurt.”

Another villager, Boonpeng (surname unknown), was reported to be seriously wounded when he was hit in the head. “Those who tried to resist were beaten. They burned everything in sight. Even a school was not spared,” said Somparn Khuendee, an activist of the Assembly of the Poor, which spearheads the anti-dam protest.

Jarin Watwarin, another Assembly of the Poor activist, insisted that Egat, which has tried repeatedly to get the villagers off the dam site, was behind the raid.

“Obviously they were hired by Egat. This is not the first time they have tried to force the villagers out,” he said.

In July, the protesters also accused Egat of masterminding a failed attempt to dislodge them from their camps.

Because of security concerns, Egat reportedly hired young men to help guard the dam site in addition to police. The agency had declared the protest area off-limits but failed to drive the protesters away.

Ubon Ratchathani police chief Pol Maj Gen Bamrung Sukpanit said he had ordered an investigation into the incident.

The Assembly of the Poor will organise a media tour of the area today.

The Campaign for Popular Democracy issued a statement condemning the raid. It said the Chuan government should take responsibility for the “barbarian” act against peaceful villagers.

There was no official response from Egat yesterday. The agency’s officials based at the dam, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the protest site had been declared off-limits and the villagers were repeatedly told to move out.

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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