EARTH Thailand

Court lifts ban on 11 industrial projects

Bangkok Post 03 December 2009  

The Supreme Administrative Court has ruled to lift a ban on 11 projects at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate - but to uphold the suspension of 65 others.

The court said it would allow 11 projects to resume operations as they were having little impact on the environment and the livelihood of residents in Rayong.

A suspension order over 65 other industrial projects would remain, although the government or anyone else could appeal against the decision if the operators took steps to bring the projects into compliance with Section 67 of the constitution.

The section calls for projects considered harmful to health and the environment to pass the scrutiny of an independent organisation made up of health experts, environmentalists and academics.

The court dismissed a claim the ban on the projects would hurt the national administration.

"If the injunction causes problems to the national administration, that is directly due to the failure of the government and other concerned parties to comply with the constitution," it said.

Government agencies and private firms running Map Ta Phut projects appealed against an injunction issued by the Administrative Court on Sept 28.

The Administrative Court suspended 76 projects on grounds that they hurt the health of area residents and the environment.

The injunction prevented all activity, including construction, pending a court ruling on whether government approvals for the projects violated the constitution, by failing to take into account residents' views and the likely environmental impact.

'Sutthi Atchasai, chairman of the Stop Global Warming Association, an alliance of environmental groups and residents, yesterday hailed the ruling, saying it would serve as a lesson to government agencies to abide by the law.

Next, the network would petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission to consider action against five cabinet members and three government agencies involved in the Map Ta Phut controversy, for alleged negligence of duty.

The group had also raised complaints about another 181 projects, but Mr Sutthi believed the project operators would now start taking action to minimise their impact on the environment and bring them into compliance with the law.

"Now that we have a ruling from the Administrative Court, we probably don't have to do a thing more about them," he said.

Noi Jaichang, 70, a resident of tambon Map Ta Phut who lost six family members to cancer which she attributes to environmental damage caused by Map Ta Phut projects, said yesterday he wished he could pass on the good news to them.

"I wished I could tell them we were able to halt some projects," he said.

"We have no plan to get them all scrapped. We are simply demanding better [environmental impact] management.

"For an industry to grow, the community around it must not be neglected."