Kaboedin is an ethnic Karen community situated in a valley amidst an abundance of natural resources, whose history reflects its standing as one of the long-established indigenous highland communities in the Chiang Mai province of Thailand. In 1987, the employees of the 99 Thuwanon Company and brokers visited the Kaboedin community with the mandate to buy the villagers’ land. The villagers reluctantly sold their land under threat of land confiscation without compensation. Later, in 2000, the company applied for a concession certificate No. 1/2543 with the Department of Primary Industries and Mines, Ministry of Industry according to the Minerals Act B.E. 2510 (1967) (now amended to Mineral Act B.E. 2560), for a coal mining operation in Kaboedin village. Along with the application the company was required to provide an environmental impact assessment (EIA). The assessment was conducted in 2010, and the Expert Committee on EIA Consideration in the mining and extracting industry approved the EIA report of the Omkoi coal mining project on August 16, 2011. The approval was later upheld by the Expert Committee on December 29, 2020. But the locals found that the report lacked local participation and contained errors and inconsistencies regarding factual information, including forged signatures of the people.
On discovering these facts, the representatives of Kaboedin village gathered at the Omkoi Regional Police Station to file a complaint about the falsification of the EIA report on April 5, 2020. In pursuance of fighting against the coal mining project, the community has produced a comprehensive Community Health Impact Assessment (CHIA) to highlight the flaws in the problematic EIA. A group of environmental and human rights organizations, as well as experts in various fields, also assisted the community in undertaking an evidence-based approach and scientifically analyzing the impacts.
On April 4, 2022, fifty representatives of the Kaboedin village filed a lawsuit against the above mentioned two defendants at the Chiang Mai Administrative Court highlighting the key issues relating to:
1. The way of life of the ethnic Karen community who strives to live in the forest and natural resources
2. Health effects from the coal mining emissions
3. Loss of natural resources and the environment
4. Loss of agricultural land which will affect the community economically, as their main income is dependent on agriculture
5. The mineral transportation route would expose the community people to a risk of accidents
7. Exposure to global warming effects, as the use of energy from coal is the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions.
The plaintiffs requested the court to:
1. revoke the concession request No. 1/2543 and the Expert Committee’s resolution upholding the coal mining project’s approval that violates the right to live in a good and safe environment for the health of the people
2. order the defendants to undertake a new EIA allowing meaningful public participation.
As part of the lawsuit, a temporary injunction was also filed to suspend the activities through the approval.
On September 23, 2022, the Administrative Court ordered temporary protection and suspended the activities of the coal mining project until final judgment from the Court. This order:
1. Reaffirmed the right to live in a good environment and the recognized the right to meaningful participation of the community.
2. This is in line with the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 8 October 2021 and the UN General Assembly resolution of 28 July 2022 that certifies a clean and healthy environment. and sustainability is a human right.