EARTH Thailand

Suwit's negligence costs Map Ta Phut industry dearly

Bangkok Post 03 December 2009  

The Supreme Administrative Court's verdict to suspend 65 of 76 projects, mainly related to the petrochemical industry, in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate leaves wide open the question of exactly who is going to take responsibility for this matter.

It is well known that most of the projects have already passed the environmental impact assessment study required by law. But under the constitution, they still need input from an independent organisation made up of environmentalists, health experts and academics on the environment and health as required by Section 67.

The problem is, the organisation does not yet exist.

The job of forming the body comes under the purview of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. Its failure to do so has eroded the confidence of many foreign investors who have decided it might be better to defer investing in Thailand.

Questions are being asked as to why the ministry has not moved quickly to set up the independent organisation even though it has in fact already drafted the required regulation.

The Department of Environmental Quality Promotion produced the draft last year under then natural resources and environment minister Anongwan Thepsutin.

In March last year, permanent secretary for natural resources and environment Saksit Tridech ordered the department to set up a committee comprising academics, officials and non-governmental organisation members.

The department organised six public meetings before closing off the input of opinions in September last year. Under the rules of procedure, the completed draft had to be forwarded to the environment minister for approval before being submitted for parliamentary scrutiny.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti has made no progress on the issue and has made no plan to submit the draft approved by his predecessor to the cabinet since he took over the portfolio a year ago.

As he is directly in charge of this matter, he cannot evade responsibility for the damage incurred by the business sector. It is a victim of his negligence of duty.

Mr Suwit now has one more duty - to explain the delay to the public. He has already come in for heavy criticism over his performance since becoming minister.