In a resounding display of unity, over 600 to 700 local residents from Mae Sariang District and its surrounding areas converged on August 20th, 2566 at Tharnthip Kindergarten School. The occasion marked their collective stand against a proposed mining and quarrying endeavor that has raised concerns about its environmental impact and its proximity to the community.
Held at 2:00 PM, this assembly followed a similar event that took place on August 19th, 2566. This strong turnout demonstrated the intensity of local sentiment regarding the contentious mining venture. Organizers distributed informative materials highlighting the potential repercussions of the mining activities, drawing attention to the ecological and community consequences.
Participants included representatives from various sectors such as members of parliament, local administrative officials, the mayor, the director of the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), community leaders, school principals, students, and youth groups. Notably absent was the provincial governor, who was on official duties, and in their stead, Mr. Surachet Puyanoi, the district chief of Mae Sariang, stood as their representative.
The central demand of the gathered crowd was straightforward: they adamantly opposed the mining project. The inhabitants of Mae Sariang voiced their concerns, emphasizing that the proposed mining area resides in close proximity to their community. They conveyed a clear ultimatum to the mining company: if the company withdraws its application for mining rights, so too would the community withdraw its opposition. However, should the company persist, the people were resolute in their opposition.
What’s striking is that the company appears to be dismissing the viewpoints of the local residents, citing their purported lack of preparedness in terms of documentation. This perspective was met with significant pushback, with community representatives engaging in dialogue with villagers from Mae Sariang and Ban Kaht. This public forum extended its reach to 16 villages, comprising a resounding 100% of the local populace. The outcome of these engagements was unequivocal – the entire community expressed their staunch opposition to the mining project.
Leaders at the forefront of this local movement emphasized the potential dire consequences of mining on the environment. They noted that the lush forests, replete with diverse wildlife and crucial water sources, were at risk of destruction due to the proposed activities. Importantly, they underlined that the forests slated for mining were not in a state of degradation, but rather were home to significant flora and fauna, including towering trees and wildlife habitats.
From an official standpoint, representatives from the industrial sector of Mae Hong Son province clarified that as of now, they had not received a comprehensive application for mining rights from Chiang Mai Stone Crushing Company Limited. Citing inadequacies in the submitted documents, especially concerning issues relating to the utilization of protected national forest areas for mining, they revealed that a document from the Forest Department, dated August 8, outlined guidelines for the National Reserved Forest Utilization Committee for 2565 (2022).
Key among the prerequisites for a mining permit is the submission of an array of comprehensive documents, including a thorough survey detailing tree types and sizes across the proposed mining zone, an ecological assessment, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, and a comprehensive mining plan. Equally pivotal is the gauge of local sentiment – if there are grievances from nearby residents or regions, it becomes a pivotal factor. Furthermore, the formation of a coalition of relevant stakeholders is crucial to the application process.
Chiang Mai Stone Crushing Company Limited finds itself in a predicament as it has not presented complete documentation, most notably the EIA and a demonstrated coalition. Consequently, the concerned governmental bodies are yet to receive a formal request from the company for mining rights. The implications of this mounting local opposition, combined with the deficiencies in the company’s documentation, cast uncertainty over the mining project’s future trajectory.