The convoy of pick-ups and trucks carrying hundreds of villagers weaved between paddy fields on its way to the eponymous provincial capital, Nong Bua Lamphu in Northeast Thailand. The villagers had an appointment with the Governor of the Province and various government ministry representatives at the Provincial Hall. They were going to ensure that their collective voice would be heard.
Almost three decades ago a struggle began between the villagers who live in several communities surrounding a collection of rocky limestone outcrops and a private stone mining company. The villagers, fearing the environmental impacts as well deforestation and the degradation of religious and historical sites have been trying to stop it ever since. The early years of this struggle were exceedingly deadly for the community with 4 members of the environmental group being killed, two in 1993 and two in 1999. The latter killings included the acting Sub-District Chief Tongmuan Khamjem and his death was particularly shocking to the community as the two men were ambushed and shot dead whilst riding a motorbike on a quiet country road.
With several of the companies mining permits due to expire in September 2020, the villagers began what they described as the last big push to stop the mining by blockading the only access road for big vehicles to the quarry itself. On September 3rd, with the forestry permission permit for the quarry itself expired taking the land away from the company, hundreds of villagers marched on the mine to retake control. The roadblock still remains in place today.
As one core leader called Lamduan Wongkhamchan said “We have been fighting against the quarry for almost 30 years since I was 40 years old. I want this struggle to end in my generation. I don’t want the younger generations, my children and grandchildren to have to continue this struggle.”