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Fields of Mine: Na Nong Bong, Thailand

2011 September 30
by The Isaan Record

YouTube Version 

LOEI – Last February, the farmers of Na Nong Bong village won a small victory in their battle against the gold mine in their backyard. After years of organizing and petitioning for health tests, these bean and rice farmers had prepared their case against Tungkum Limited mining company. And, on February 8, the cabinet of former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva voted to stop the company from opening new mines, pending further research on the causes of villagers’ health problems.

Tungkum Limited began constructing two gold mines in Wang Saphung District of Loei in 2006. When the mining company began digging, the villagers began to notice changes. They reported rashes and stinging eyes, plummeting crop yields, and higher cases of illness.

It was not until 2009, however, that news of the village made its first waves. To appease the protesting villagers, the Ministry of Health tested local water sources. They found high levels of contaminants and ordered villagers not to use the local water or eat affected vegetables and fish. Farmers who had traditionally relied on their land for nourishment were now asked to buy food and water from city markets.

Concerned about the health effects of the contaminated water, the villagers petitioned the Ministry of Health for blood tests. On February 2 of this year, the ministry published that 124 of 725 villagers had high levels of cyanide in their blood and 50 of 708 villagers had high levels of mercury. In just one week’s time, the cabinet had paused Tungkum’s expansion.

The mining company, however, takes no responsibility for local contamination. They comply with government regulations, their drainage does not interfere with village water, their tailings pond is not leaking, and their operational area, they claim, complies with international standards. But relevant government agencies do not do research of their own and instead rely on Tungkum’s contracted researchers to confirm that operations are safe.

Though they have succeeded in slowing down Tungkum’s expansion, Na Nong Bong and its five neighboring villages are not celebrating. They are still fighting for the day when Tungkum’s mine, just 500 meters away, shuts down.

For the full story, watch the video above.

[Correction: October 7, 2011 – Tungkum Mining Company, a subisidiary of Tongkah Harbor, was founded by Australians but the company is now publicly traded in the Thai stock exchange. We apologize for this confusion. The article and video have been edited to reflect this change.]

3 Responses leave one →
  1. CFKD permalink
    September 30, 2011

    You did a great job on this one! I really like the opening scene in particular. For some scenes there are Thai subtitles missing, but I assume you are working on it.

  2. October 2, 2011

    Yes this is a wonderful job on your part. Why didn’t you identify the Thai stooge in the beginning of the video who made excuses for having allowed this monstrous crime to begin with? Clearly the vile mining operation feels it has all the cover it needs from the Royal Thai Government, 6 or 700 kilometers away in the Imperial Capital and its local Governor… they are meeting government regulations they say.

    Does anyone think the the neoliberal Shinawatra machine will help these people? will shut this and the 41 other mines in Loei alone down?

    I certainly don’t think so.

    The villagers know exactly what needs to be down : shut ’em down, throw ’em out, make them pay to put things back in order.

    All the neoliberals in Bangkok are constantly ridiculing the ‘sufficiency economy’… there’s no question that the Royal Thai Government does not understand the ideas behind it themselves… but these Thai villagers are light years ahead of the failed neoliberals in understanding what they have known all along, forever : they are a part of the earth and its ecology and the live, use value of the earth and her ecology and the agricultural economy that holds them all together dwarfs whatever exchange value of these aliens from Australia and Germany and Bangkok can wrest from the earth as they destroy everything of real value in Thailand.

    The vimeo was better this time. It is good to have an alternative to the googleplex, who mine and exploit the internet as surely as Tungkum and their compradors in the Royal Thai Government mine and exploit Thailand.

  3. January 24, 2012

    We have the same problems here in US.
    See to see what coal companies are doing to us. Thank you for your important video and most importantly thank you for the message that you have sent to the world. May God Bless each of you with strength to continue to fight.
    Solidarity from US coal fields.

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