Grandma Noi wins salination court case

NAKHON RATCHASIMA - The Appeals Court has ordered a shrimp farmer to pay an 86-year-old woman one million baht plus interest in compensation for the salination of her rice fields.

The ruling is likely to spur similar claims from other rice farmers in the northeastern province whose fields have withered under the effects of nearby salt and shrimp farms.

The court on Wednesday ordered Kraisorn Chotchakornphan to pay grandma Noi Meepuang one million baht in compensation, plus 7.5% interest dated back to the day she took the case to court on Dec 17, 2010, plus 20,000 baht court costs for lawyer's fees.

Noi Meepuang, centre, shows the Appeals Court's order for a shrimp farm owner to compensate her salted rice field in Nakhon Ratchasima. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)

The farmer took Mr Kraisorn to court on the grounds that her 45 rai of paddy fields in Non Thai district became unproductive due to soil salination caused by the discharge from Mr Kraisorn's shrimp farm.

Mrs Noi said on Thursday she was ready to fight if the shrimp farm owner decides to take the case to the Supreme Court.

She was in debt to the tune of 200,000 baht to the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives because her fields had been ruined, she said.

Residents from other villages in Non Thai and Non Sung districts went to congratulate her at her house on Thursday. Their rice fields had become salinated due to salt farming nearby, they told her. The court's ruling gave them hope.

Mrs Noi's victory was like a win for other farmers, said Taworn Phetkhuntod, a leader of the network of farmers affected by salt farming in the province.

At least 600 farmers in Non Thai, Non Sung and Pra Thong Kham districts complain their fields have been devastated by salt or shrimp farming, according to the network. The damaged area covers about 10,000 rai.

Mr Taworn said grandma Noi's victory was a huge boost in their hopes for compensation.

The network is compiling a case, including documents and research by the Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, which will be forwarded to provincial governor Winai Buapradit in two weeks. They are asking the state to step in and help them and solve the problem.

If the state ignores their call, the farmers say they will take their case to the Central Administrative Court, seeking legal action against the agencies responsible in this matter.

Santipap Siriwattanapaiboon, a researcher at Udon Thani Rajabhat University, said both shrimp and salt farming damage rice fields by causing the salination of the soil.

The problem on soil salination from salt farming was more serious due to its widespead operation which affected rice farmers in many northeastern provinces including Udon Thani, he said. "This problem can be found everywhere where salt farming is located,'' he said.

Related search: salination, shrimp farming, salt farming, compensation, court precedent in salination case

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Writer: Prasit Tangprasert and Saritdet Marukatat