By Janjira Pongrai / The Nation
Samut Sakhon villagers scored a major victory yesterday in their years-long legal battle against a coal production and transportation firm and various local officials.
The long battle claimed the life of protest leader Thongnak Sawekjinda, who was shot dead in July 2011.
“The Central Administrative Court’s ruling marks a victory for locals,” Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) president Srisuwan Janya said yesterday after the court ruled that Techni Team Co, a coal production and transport firm, must modify its building to bring it in line with the Building Control Act. Under the act, Samut Sakhon is deemed to be a farming zone.
The court also ordered the Tambon Tha Sai Administrative Organisation and the Samut Sakhon Provincial Industry Office to bar Techni Team permanently from using its building for coal production and transport within 30 days.
More than 50 villagers from tambon Tha Sai who were present in the courtroom yesterday beamed after Judge Weera Saengsomboon read out the verdict.
Thongnak’s widow Jomkwan said she was glad that her late husband had in effect extended the lives of other locals.
Thongnak led residents of tambon Tha Sai in protesting against the construction of a pier for coal-transporting boats in their neighbourhood in 2010. They said the coal transport and related operations posed a threat to their health.
During the fight to stop the coal-related operation, Thongnak was shot dead. About a year later, the Central Administrative Court issued an injunction to ban the coal-related operation. Its decision was upheld by the Supreme Administrative Court.
This injunction will remain in effect until relevant authorities comply with yesterday’s ruling, the appellate process ends, or the Supreme Administrative Court rules otherwise.
Srisuwan, however, yesterday warned relevant authorities not to appeal against the Central Administrative Court’s latest verdict.
He said the SGWA would file a complaint with the National Anti-Corruption Commission against any officials who lodge an appeal.
“We will also initiate criminal proceedings against them on grounds of dereliction of duty,” he said.
Srisuwan said he did not want to see an appeal process launched because he hoped locals would be able to enjoy their normal farming lives without any disruption or threat.
Jomkwan said: “Coal dust affects people, their houses and their fruit orchards.”
Pollution Control Department director-general Wichien Jungrung-ruang said dust monitoring at Techni Team’s coal warehouse between May 30 and June 2, 2011, found that the amount of dust particles did not exceed safety limits. Wichien said his department planned to conduct random checks at coal-shipping piers in Samut Sakhon and Ayutthaya through 2014 to monitor their impacts on the environment and nearby communities.