Justice ministry compensates family of slain village head/environmentalist

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BANGKOK, March 5 – Thailand’s Ministry of Justice on Tuesday presented Bt100,000 compensation to the family of slain village head who was killed for his role in protesting against the dumping of toxic waste in his community.

The compensation was handed over by Rights and Liberties Protection Department director-general Pol Col Narat Savetanant, under the justice ministry, to Arunrat Naowa-opas, the widow of Prajob Naowa-opas, community leader and prominent environmentalist shot to death last month in Chachoengsao province.

Col Narat said the department has Bt200-250 million of budget earmarked for allocation as compensation for victims or scapegoats of criminal acts.

He said, during the last six years, there were about 40,000 criminal cases under police investigation, but 18 per cent of victims have sought help from the department. Among them, only ten per cent whose request were properly submitted received compensation.

Col Narat said the department has established the Savetanant Fund which provides immediate compensation to victims.

Regarding Mr Prajob’s case, Col Narat said, the victim’s wife Mrs Arunrat and elder brother Chhorn Naowa-opas, who is a member of the protest group, also sought protection under the department’s witness protection programme as the situation there is still risky.

Mr Prajob had led villagers in a campaign to expose the illegal dumping of toxic industrial waste at a garbage tip in their community in Nong Nae subdistrict. Their protest prompted the Industry Ministry to transfer some officials out of Chachoengsao province and the landfill was closed to toxic-waste dumpers.

A gunman shot the 43-year-old village head four times in a public, daytime shooting in Phanom Sarakham district. Mr Prajob was shot as he was waiting for mechanics to repair his pickup truck.

Human Rights Watch earlier urged the Thai authorities to immediately investigate Mr Prajob’s broad daylight murder, saying the killing was another example of the fundamental failure of Thai authorities to protect activists who risk their lives while defending their communities. (MCOT online news)