EARTH Thailand

Map Ta Phut deadlock 'can be resolved'

Bangkok Post 20 November 2009 | Vichaya Pitsuwan, Chatrudee Theparat and Apinya Wipatayotin

Business leaders feel panel can restore trust

Business executives and community representatives are cautiously optimistic a four-party panel will help break the deadlock over new investment projects at Map Ta Phut.

The expressions of hope came after the first meeting yesterday of a four-party panel chaired by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun.

The panel was set up by the government to find a solution to the MapTa Phut pollution issues. The first meeting agreed to collaborate in solving the problems of 76 industrial projects within four to five weeks and establish a long-term guide for projects nationwide within four to five months. It yesterday also set the guidelines and targets for the working procedures of the committee.

Payungsak Chartsutipol, Federation of Thai Industries vice-president, representing the business sector, said the panel would be able to issue internationally accepted mechanisms to accommodate Section 67.

"The mechanisms should allow checks and balances by all stakeholders to rebuild trust which has been lacking and was the main cause of misunderstanding among all parties," Mr Payungsak said.

"Our planning will not be about who wants what, but rather a common solution on what the facts such as the health and environmental impacts are," he said.

He insisted the industrial sector is willing to do whatever is required according to the constitution and 60 out of the 76 projects have filed a letter of intent with the prime minister stating willingness to do whatever is necessary.

Mr Anand said his panel would not get involved in the processes of the Administrative Court which has been hearing a case filed by Map Ta Phut villagers against related state agencies for alleged illegal approval of industrial projects.

"The panel will not make a decision on who or what agencies did right or wrong things but will seek solutions so that the community and factories can co-exist peacefully," Mr Anand said.

Suthi Atchasai, leader of the People's Eastern Network, was also positive after the first meeting of the panel. He agreed that mutual trust was missing and hoped the panel would find steps to salvage this missing trust.

"Our expectation from the panel is for it to come up with acceptable mechanisms to Section 67 which include details of health, environmental impacts, public hearings, an independent committee and projects that are considered harmful. We also want mechanisms to resolve villagers problems in Map Ta Phut," he said.

Veteran environmentalist Hannarong Yaowaloes, a panel member, said one of the priority tasks of the Anand panel was to draft a framework to end the deadlock over the 76 suspended industrial projects under the Administrative Court's Sept 29 injunction.

The panel is expected to come up with a solution for the projects next month before submitting it for cabinet approval, said Mr Hannarong.

Meanwhile, Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said the government would put on hold the amendment of the 1992 Environment Promotion and Preservation Act pending the Anand panel's recommendations.

The draft amendment over the establishment of an independent agency to scrutinise investment projects deemed to cause severe environmental and health impacts, was approved by the cabinet on Oct 13. The House is due to deliberate the legislation next week.

Environmentalists had criticised the government for ignoring public participation in the legal amendment. They also said the draft law was unacceptable because it did not guarantee that the independent organisation would be truly independent.Mr Abhisit said the government would postpone the deliberation of the draft law to the next parliamentary session.