Thai villagers attacked after blocking road to gold mine: reports

Thai villagers attacked after blocking road to gold mine: reportHundreds of armed men struck a village in northern Thailand and reportedly attacked residents who were blocking the road to a gold mine operated by Tongkah Harbour, said to be on public land, Bangkok Post reports.

Villagers have for years contested the mining operation run by Tungkum Ltd, a subsidiary of Tongkah Harbour Pcl., Thailand’s largest gold mining company. They claim the operation has poisoned the creeks and waterways on which the communities rely for food, irrigation and drinking water.

Since late 2012, the tailings pond has collapsed several times. And while the company claims spills were contained, residents contend that more chemicals flooded into their streams and fields.

South East Asia Globe reports that residents have experienced an alarming rise in health issues, including chronic headaches, eye pain, blackouts, vertigo and abnormal rashes all over their bodies, ever since the company began operations.

Thai villagers attacked after blocking road to gold mine: report

According to Reuters, Tongkah Harbour faces delisting of its shares from the Stock Exchange of Thailand for failing to submit financial statements. Its shares have been suspended since February 2012.

Gold consumption has spike in Thailand over the last 10 months. Data from the World Gold Council shows that consumer gold demand in the country rose 58% per cent to 26.6 tons in the second quarter of 2013, compared to the same period a year earlier.

Jewellery manufacturers have contributed to the surge, as the Thai government doesn’t charge tariffs on gold imports, and it also waives the 7% value-added tax for registered jewels makers.

Thailand is the third largest Asian consumer, behind only India and China, which —in turn— consume more than 60% of global gold.

Images from Thai PBS, via YouTube