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5 October 2014 | | | | | |

Witness in the legal defense of an activist sued for defamation in Bukit Koman tells his story

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Woon Soon Fatt is 39 years old, he is the father of four children and lives 500 meters away from the mine owned by company Raub Australian Goldmining Malaysia, that uses sodium cyanide to extract gold in the Malaysian area of Bukit Koman, Raub district, State of Pahang. As soon as the company started operating in 2009, he and his children started to suffer from health problems. He decided not to remain silent and be a witness of the defense in the trial for defamation against local leader Wong Kin Hoong.

It was noon in the Bukit Koman village and the members of Friends of the Earth International`s solidarity mission present in the area to verify the complaints by environmental defenders walked under the radiant sun. Several interviews with the local community had already brought us closer to the daily lives of the community. Suddenly, we stopped at a repair shop and after a few minutes, one of its workers, Woon Soon Fatt kindly met with the participants of the mission and Real World Radio. Woon speaks Bahasa Malaysia, but lawyer Theiva Lingam of SAM- Friends of the Earth Malaysia provided the translation.

According to our interviewee, soon after the mining company started operating, he began experiencing itching in his skin, his eyes became very hot and he felt as if there was something in the air which was not clean, in addition to difficulty in breathing. Since then he has been having these problems, some months he feels better, and others he feels very bad. For instance, Woon said that when he travels to the highland his condition improves, but when he returns to Bukit Koman, he starts to feel very tired and experiences the abovementioned effects.

He has gone to public hospitals and also private clinics to receive medical attention. The explanations given to him were not satisfactory. The doctors have asked him if he has a seafood allergy, which he has always eaten without any problem. The doctors also told him that the soap he is using must be affecting him, but he has been using the same soap since he was a child. One of the doctors prescribed a cream to put on his skin and something more specific to treat the itchiness, but his conditioned didn`t improve.

Woon told us that if he could, he would like to move to another place. But he is not able to do so because it would cost him a lot of money and besides he has his home in Bukit Koman.

There are several local inhabitants who have been sued for defamation by Raub Australian Goldmining Malaysia or prosecuted by the national government for taking part in ‘illegal assemblies’. One of them is Wong Kin Hoong, president of the local group Ban Cyanide in Gold Mining Action Committee. Wong was sued for defamation and accused of participating in “legal assemblies”.

Woon is part of the Committee but also wanted to be a witness in the legal defense of Wong. In the interview with Real World Radio he explained that he made the decision because his entire family is suffering from the same problems, but not all of them have the same symptoms and he wants the suffering of the Bukit Koman community to be known. Our interviewee said that it is extremely painful to see his children suffering too from the same conditions that he has, the same itchiness. “So I want everybody to know what we are going through”, he said. “I want to make sure that at least something is done for us to get better”, he added.

Imagen: Víctor Barro - Friends of the Earth International

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