Free trade agreements: Corporate greed makes the right to water of Phichit villagers a distant reality
In Central Thailand’s Phichit province, a group of villagers resisted a gold mine that polluted their water and destroyed their livelihoods and health for almost 20 years. When the Chatree Goldmining Complex was finally closed in 2017, the villagers had one goal left: to get justice and fair compensation for the damages caused by Akara Resources, a Thai subsidiary of Australian company Kingsgate. In a cynical development the company decided to bring Thailand to arbitration under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, claiming the Thai government expropriated the gold mine and leaving Phichit villagers to fear for their future. After five years of arbitration, the military-backed government of Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to put profit above people and the planet and renewed four licences to Kingsgate, allowing it to re-open the Chatree complex. Meanwhile villagers are still yet to receive compensation for the environmental, physical and emotional harm they have suffered over the past 20 years.