Gold mine protests in north-eastern Thailand go viral after shot fired

Clashes around a gold mine in Thailand’s Loei province went viral Wednesday after an official fired a shot into the air during a confrontation with activists and locals.

The hashtag #เหมืองแร่เมืองเลย (Gold Mine in Loei Province) has been trending as Thai netizens try to raise awareness of the increasing concerns over pollution from gold mining in the province’s Wang Saphung district.

The hashtag had more than 60,000 Tweets Wednesday morning after the official threatened activists, locals, and students on-site with a gun late Tuesday.

Thanakit Anthara, a temporary official working for the security department of Wang Saphung district and a former headman, drove up to the mine entrance and protest site around 5:15 on Tuesday.

Seemingly intoxicated, Thanakit threatened and verbally attacked the villagers and students. He shot his handgun into the sky and threatening the activists before being taken away by officers. No one was harmed.

The incident was captured on video by UNME of Anarchy, a youth activist group. The clip posted by group leader Pai Daodin had been shared more than 3,000 times.

This incident came after villagers and activists under the organization กลุ่มฅนรักษ์บ้านเกิด (people who love their birthplace) went to the Wang Saphung police Tuesday morning calling for measures to protect villagers facing the threat of illegal and dangerous gold-mining activities.

The villagers earlier reported a group of unidentified men seen entering the gold mine, and later transporting minerals and assets out with them.

Villagers have now submitted a letter to the Director General of the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission to investigate and clarify on the incident. The office is responsible for deciding who can freely enter the mine and move its resources.

Over the past decade, hundreds of villagers and the environment have been severely affected by the gold mine in Wang Saphung, which is operated by Tungkum Limited (TKL), a subsidiary of Tongkah Harbour PCL. The mine has been accused of poisoning the villagers’ land and water supplies, causing serious health problems and damage to the environment.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha ordered the closure of the mine in 2019 and said that he would take responsibility.

Back in May 2014, some 300 armed masked men attacked villagers and activists occupying the checkpoints blocking the access to the gold mine in Wang Saphung.

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