80 Myanmar and Thai NGOs condemn legal action over Tanintharyi tin mine report

EIGHTY NGOs, including 56 from Myanmar, have condemned a Thai company’s decision to sue a reporter with Bangkok’s Nation newspaper over a report about a tin mine in Tanintharyi Region, the daily reported on May 15.

A joint statement by the groups on May 14 demanded that mining company Myanmar Pongpipat Co Ltd immediately withdraws all criminal defamation proceedings against the reporter, Mr Pratch Rujivanarom, and the Nation, the newspaper said.

The statement also urged the Thai government to protect press freedom, decriminalise defamation and align the country’s 2007 Computer Crime Act with international laws and standards, it said.

The joint statement from human rights and environmental groups, led by Reporters without Borders, follows a suit filed on March 20 by Myanmar Pongpipat against Pratch as first defendant and the Nation as second defendant alleging criminal defamation and breaches of the Computer Crime Act.

The legal action follows a report by Pratch in the Nation on March 1 about the environmental impact of the mine on residents of Myaung Po village in Tanintharyi that Myanmar Pongpipat alleges damaged its reputation.

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The company said in its complaint that the allegation it contaminated the river and water supply of Myaung Po village was false and that the mine never discharged heavy metals into the environment, the Nation reported.

Myanmar Pongpipat also claimed that levels of manganese, arsenic and lead in water from the mine were safe and not harmful to health according to international standards, the daily said.

The statement by the NGOs, including 24 from Thailand, said the charges against Pratch were a vivid example of the use of overly broad criminal law to diminish freedom of expression and intimidate the reporter.

The groups that signed the joint statement include Amnesty International, Earth Rights International, TERRA, the Seub Nakasatien Foundation, the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network, the Green Network Mergui Archipelago and the Dawei Watch Foundation.

A preliminary hearing of the case is due to be heard at a court in Nakhon Pathom, about 50 kilometres west of Bangkok, on July 17, the Nation said.

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