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Police prevent villagers from showing documentary on controversial oil concessions

The police have prevented a local conservation group from showing a documentary film on controversial petroleum concessions in the region, saying it might breach the Copyright Act.

By Prachatai

Khon Kaen, Khon Kaen Province, Thailand, September 2, 2015

Prachatai

The police have prevented a local conservation group from showing a documentary film on controversial petroleum concessions in the region, saying it might breach the Copyright Act.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), 8-9 police officers from Nong Kung Si Police Station in Nong Kung Si District of the northeastern province of Kalasin on 23 August 2015 came to Khok Khruea Subdistrict and ordered a local environmental conservation group to stop a screening of a documentary film ‘Open the Wound of Isan’s Petroleum’.

The documentary produced by Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) is about controversial oil and gas fields in Kalasin and the adjacent province of Khon Kaen, where the Thai authorities have given concessions to Apico (Korat) Limited, a US-based oil and gas exploration company, to explore the area.

The officers pointed out that showing the documentary in public could be illegal under the Copyright Act and that the contents of the documentary might be false and then asked the Nong Yai environmental conservation group to abruptly cancel the event.

There were about 20 villagers at the film screening which the group organised to educate local people about the controversies of petroleum concessions, TLHR reported.

After the screening was halted on 24 August 2015, the conservation group went to the police station to submit a letter, asking the police to allow the documentary screening to take place. However, the police said that the group needed to obtain permission from Thai PBS first before showing the film.

According to the environmental conservation group, there should not be any legal complication from showing the documentary since it was produced by Thai PBS in the public interest and it could be downloaded from YouTube.

In brief, Article 32 of the Copyright Act states that if the intellectual properties of beneficiaries are being used in a manner that does not affect the rights and interests of the producers, the users shall not be held liable under the Copyright Act.

In February 2015, oil and gas explorations in Kalasin and Khon Kaen Province hit the national headlines after about 40 armed police and military officers assisted Apico (Korat) Limited to move gas-drilling equipment into a potential oil field called Dongmun in Kranuan District of Khon Kaen located on the border with Kalasin Province.

Kranuan District villagers have long opposed the plan to explore the oilfield because the plan and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) were conducted without the involvement of local people who will be directly affected by the operations.

In January 2015, the villagers collected names and submitted a petition to Khon Kaen Administrative Court in an attempt to stop the drilling operation. Although the court has not yet reached a verdict, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recently issued a statement to halt the project temporarily.

However, police and military officers from Khon Kaen Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) claimed that the Department of Mineral Fuels has already permitted the gas exploration company to explore the field.

About 40 police officers guarding the main road to the potential oilfield in Kranuan District of Khon Kaen on 13 February 2015 (Prachatai file photo)

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