EARTH Thailand

Court prepares to rule on suspended projects

Bangkok Post 01 December 2009 | Apinya Wipatayotin and Nanchanok Wongsamuth

Surprise early verdict in Map Ta Phut battle  

Map Ta Phut residents and businesses are anxiously awaiting an unexpectedly early verdict tomorrow by the Supreme Administrative Court on the suspension of 76 projects at the Rayong industrial estate.

The ruling comes a month sooner than scheduled by the court.

It follows an appeal by state agencies and industrial concerns against the lower administrative court's injunction on Sept 29 to halt the 76 projects pending the hearing of a case filed by Rayong villagers against state agencies alleging industrial operating permits were issued illegally.

Industrialists, mainly petrochemical plant operators, and state agencies asked the court to lift the suspension order, saying they had implemented environmental protection measures and the suspension had proved extremely costly.

Suthi Atchasai, leader of the People's Eastern Network which is fighting Map Ta Phut pollution, said the sooner the court hands down the verdict the better.

Meanwhile, the four-party panel set up to resolve the environmental disputes at Map Ta Phut, chaired by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, yesterday agreed to push for enforcement of a PM's Office regulation on forming an independent agency to monitor pollution instead of using a body proposed by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

A proposed ministerial regulation would allow any environmental or academic group or juristic person to become an "independent organisation" by registering with the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep), panel member Hannarong Yaowaloes said.

He said this would not guarantee the independence of a body and would also run counter to Section 67 of the constitution which aims to create a single independent body to help the government decide on controversial projects, he said.

The draft regulation is now awaiting publication in the Royal Gazette.

The PM's Office's version, meanwhile, stipulates a single independent body made up of representatives from non-governmental organisations and academics. The body would be fully independent in offering suggestions.

"The four-party committee agrees the ministry should withdraw its draft ministerial regulation to pave the way for the PM's Office version, which better matches the constitution's will," he said.

The committee will discuss the issue again at its next meeting on Monday.