By Pratch Rujivanarom
Tak Province, Thailand, July 13, 2016
PEOPLE in Tak province say nothing has been done about removing cadmium contamination from their water source, while the Appeals Court yesterday upheld the Civil Court’s earlier ruling against zinc-mining companies on the leakage of toxins into the Mae Tao River Basin.
The Southern Bangkok Civil Court upheld the previous court decision to sentence 84 people in three tambon of Tak’s Mae Sot district in a complaint filed against Padaeng Industry and Tak Mining Co. It also ruled that the 20 plaintiffs be given Bt62,000 each in compensation for cadmium poisoning. No court decision has been made on environmental damage.
Prapai Phromsane, one of the plaintiffs who lives in tambon Mae Tao, said he respected the verdict but was dissatisfied with the compensation.
“I feel Bt62,000 is not enough to compensate for our health. Besides, it’s already far too late, as some of the plaintiffs have died from cadmium poisoning,” he said.
Prapai added that nothing had been done so far to protect people from cadmium poisoning or to remove it from the river.
“People here still live in fear and uncertainty because we don’t know whether the level of cadmium toxin is rising in the river or not. The zinc mine is also operating as normal,” he said.
“We have no choice but to use water from the contaminated river because we have no other source.”
Pun Wongsuta, another Mae Tao resident, said a large number of people in his village suffered from joint pain, and had ended up with a bent spine due to the severity of their condition.
It is widely known that cadmium is an extremely toxic metal. According to the Public Health Ministry’s Toxicology Information Centre, cadmium poisoning causes pain in the arms, legs and hips, while those with long-term exposure can develop “itai-itai” disease.
Somchai Ameen, the plaintiffs’ lawyer from the Lawyers Council of Thailand, pointed out that the only difference in the new verdict was that the defendants had to pay Bt12,000 more to three of the 20 plaintiffs.
He said the court had still not ruled on compensation for environmental damage, unlike the case of another group, in which the Appeals Court ruled that the defendants put Bt50 million towards the cleaning up of cadmium contamination.
“We will certainly take the case to Supreme Court, as we want the mining companies to be responsible for the environmental damage and the health problems caused by the leakage of cadmium into the river,” he said.
He explained that since a large number of people in Mae Sot district’s tambon of Mae Tao, Mae Ku and Phratat Padaeng were suffering from cadmium poisoning, they were divided into five groups when it came to suing the mining companies.
The lawsuit filed by the first two groups has already been ruled on by the Appeals Court, while two other groups are still waiting for an Appeals Court verdict and the last group’s case is currently in the hands of the Civil Court.