SAKON NAKHON – A Sakhon Nakhon district chief’s order for state agencies to promote the setting up of a potash mine in the province has angered locals, leading to a petition to stop the “propaganda.”

On 19 September, residents of Sakon Nakhon’s Wanon Niwat District and members of a local environmental conservation and health network submitted the petition to Deputy Governor Noppadon Jarupong.

Last month, representatives of a local environmental conservation network opposed to a potash mining project submitted a petition to Sakon Nakhon’s Deputy Governor, Noppadon Jarupong.

Earlier this year, the Chinese state-owned enterprise China Ming Ta Potash Corporation began surveying the area after it was granted an exploration permit in the province for potash mining.

Later on, Lt Col Ruayrung Kraibut, district chief of Wanon Niwat, ordered all state agencies to put up posters produced by the Department of Primary Industries and Mines, which the activists say contained “propaganda” regarding the potash mining project. For instance, the posters mentioned that the opening of the mine will result in cheap fertilizer, but failed to provide information regarding the potential environmental impact of the mine.

The petition asked Sakhon Nakhon governor Wittaya Chanchalong to look into the issue regarding the district chief’s orders. The governor has promised a reply within seven days. But the acitivist group has not received an reply yet.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) received complaints that local activists opposing the mining project have been closely monitored by the authorities. The NHRC criticized the lack of public participation in the management of natural resources in the province, according to a report by The Nation.

Locals are divided over the setting up of the project, with some arguing that the mining operation will lead to toxic contamination in agriculture. Potash is used to produce fertiliser and its byproducts can be used to produce rock salt and magnesium.

The activist network used the occasion of lodging the complaint to also demonstrate their support of the ban on the herbicide paraquat and the insecticide chlorpyrifos. In early April, the Ministry of Public Health proposed that the pesticides be outlawed by December 2019, citing risks to health and the environment. It recommended an import ban on the two pesticides from December this year.

Reporting by Satanon Chuenta, a participant of The Isaan Journalism Network Project 2017 organized by The Isaan Record. Satanon is also member of an activist group opposing the potash mining project in Sakhon Nakhon.