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Thai villagers win 10-year lawsuit over mining pollution

Posted September 12

— The lawyer for a group of villagers in Thailand 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 province, said Tuesday he is not confident that Lead Concentrates Co. will pay the 36 million baht ($1.1 million) in compensation ordered by Thailand's Supreme Court because its representatives did not even show up for the court's verdict.

The court on Monday ruled in favor 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," 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, Surapong said. A separate court ruling in January 2013 ordered the Thai government to oversee the creek's rehabilitation and pay nearly $4 million in compensation to villagers.

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 Pollution Control Department, who works on the issue but declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said department officials will go to the village, 300 kilometers (180 miles) 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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