Senior Thai official gets death over activist's murder

Senior Thai official gets death over activist's murder

The Chachoengsao provincial court yesterday sentenced a senior Department of Industrial Works (DIW) official to death for murdering Chachoengsao environmental activist Prajob Naowa-opas last year.

The court found Phuthon Kavipan, a C-8 official of DIW and owner of Fusion Development Co, guilty of masterminding the murder as well as criminal conspiracy.

The hearing attracted more than 100 of villagers in Phanom Sarakham district's tambon Nong Nae, where Prajob was village head.

Two other defendants - Air Force Sergeant Yutthanai Najaeng, who drove the getaway vehicle, |and Air Force Sergeant Anu Boonpeng, who confessed to pulling the trigger - were sentenced to life in prison.

Jon Noawa-opas, the victim's brother, said his family planned to appeal against Yutthanai's sentence, saying he too should be sentenced to death as he had denied wrongdoings during investigation and the trial.

Victim's pre-murder roles

Prajob Naowa-opas, 41, was shot dead on Feb 25, 2013 at an automobile garage in the district.

He was the headman of Moo 14 in tambon Nong Nae and core leader of the protest against Fusion Development Co, which dumped toxic industrial waste in the area in 2007 and polluted the air and river.

Locals claimed that this pollution cut down on their agricultural produce.

In Nong Nae village, industrial waste is disposed in nine sites by other companies, but only a third of them are legal.

Chachoengsao province has about 11 toxic-waste disposal sites and some com-panies have released cancer-causing substances into a natural reservoir, which provides drinking water.

Penchom Saetang, the director of non-profit Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (Earth), said the case proved that officials had a hand in the corruption.

She said related government bodies in charge of eco-protection should be restructured in order to ensure that they have greater accountability and transparency.

Local residents also have to be allowed to inspect their work.

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