The Chachoengsao court has handed down the death sentence against a C-8 Industry Ministry official for ordering the 2013 killing of a phuyaiban (village chief) who was leading protests against toxic waste dumping.
Prachob Naowa-opas, former chief of a Moo 14 village in Nong Han subdistrict of Phanom Sarakham district, was shot dead at a garage in the district last year.
He was the leader of the protests against illegal dumping of industrial and toxic waste in Nong Han and other tambons nearby.
Poothorn Kaweephan, an official at the Water Management Office of the Industrial Works Department, was the owner of Fusion Development Co Ltd, a waste-treatment company.
He was convicted of masterminding, ordering, hiring or collaborating to kill others, a charge he had denied.
The two gunmen — Flt Sgt Anu Boonpeng and Flt Sgt Yutthanai Nachaeng — were each sentenced to life imprisonment for first-degree murder and having weapons in their possession.
Flt Sgt Anu confessed to pulling the trigger while Flt Sgt Yutthanai, who drove the car, denied the charge.
Relatives of the victim said they would appeal against the sentence for Flt Sgt Yutthanai who they felt did not repent despite evidence that he had planned the murder.
The case dated back to 2007. Prachob, then chief of Moo 14 village of Nong Han subdistrict, led villagers in a protest against the illegal dumping of industrial and toxic waste in his subdistrict and others nearby.
Prachob, then 41, led the protests against several companies set up in the province to treat and dispose of the waste by dumping it on public or vacant land, including villagers' plots and laterite reserves.
The rally began in 2007 after Fusion Development Co Ltd discharged toxic waste water from a treatment plant during heavy rain, filling public waterways and rice fields.
In February 2012, the protesters blocked a chemicals truck carrying industrial waste from a cola drink bottler in Chon Buri. These trucks reportedly dumped the waste in laterite reserves in the village, creating a stench.
The protests escalated while complaints and lawsuits ensued. Orders were issued to shut down some of the companies.
On Feb 25, 2013, Prachob was shot in the head in a garage where he took his truck for service. He died on the way to hospital.