Oil Extraction on Protected Land Resumes Under Junta’s Shield

Photo: PTTEP

BANGKOK — Oil companies resumed operations Monday after the junta chief used his self-granted absolute power to overturn a court order and give them permission to continue their activities on land reserved for farmers.

The PTT Exploration and Production Co. Ltd., or PTTEP on the stock market, said they recommenced their petroleum production Monday on land which had originally been allocated for agricultural use after halting operations for 23 days due to a court order.

Read: Junta to Order Oil Production Restarted on Protected Land

The pause was the result of a June 1 ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court, which deemed that land reserved under the 1975 Agricultural Land Reform Act could not be used for other purposes, in light of which the Agricultural Land Reform Office had revoked concessions granted to several companies.

Following the verdict, the company had to stop operations on June 3 in the Lan Krabue district of Kamphaeng Phet province – despite having been active there since 1982.

It triggered the largest decrease in the company’s market value in four months.

A government spokesman said last week the junta’s special power was needed in this case to restore the production of energy and investors’ confidence.

A Friday order issued by the junta’s extralegal authority permitted the usage of land reserved for the promotion of farmers’ rights to be used for energy production – including mining and the generation of wind energy.

It said companies that never sought the authorities’ permission – and are illegally operating on protected land – are also allowed to resume their activities while they seek official approval.

The order wrote that the reform office must compensate affected farmers.

Apart from the PTTEP – the majority of which is owned by state oil company PTT – the order also benefitted another six companies whose productions were also located on protected land.

The company said the 23-day halt of the petroleum production in Lan Krabue district resulted in a 0.4 percent loss of their expected annual sales.