EARTH Thailand

Environmental draft amendments approved

The Nation 14 October 2009 
The Cabinet yesterday approved draft amendments to the Environmental Protection Act of 1992, to comply with Article 67 of the Constitution.

Deputy Government Spokesman Phumin Leetheeraprasert said the amendments would empower the natural resources and environment minister to issue regulations on the types of industry deemed to have serious effects on the environment and public health.

In addition, the country's first independent body on environmental protection will be set up within the next 90 days, to facilitate enforcement of laws in compliance with Article 67.

The private sector has urged the government to ensure its moves to address environmental conflicts in Map Ta Phut benefited all parties.

Federation of Thai Industries vice chairman Payungsak Chartsutipol yesterday voiced concern about what might happen if the government's moves were passed into law but local residents and other stakeholders continued their resistance.

Yesterday, owners of some of the 76 projects convened to finalise which companies would file to ask for the court's relaxation on project restrictions. Payungsak said there was no conclusion yet, as they were still gathering information.

The Law Society of Thailand (LST) yesterday issued a statement calling for a halt to efforts to have the 76 projects in the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate continue in the face of a court injunction against them.

LST chairman Dej-udom Krairit also dismissed claims by project owners that eight residents had allowed projects near their homes to continue.

He said there was no substantial evidence backing their claims, nor were there any documents proving the same project owners had hired private firms to conduct additional environment-impact assessments like they claimed.

Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) chairman Srisuwan Chanya said he would submit a "people's bill" along with a legal amendment submitted by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry that was approved by the Cabinet yesterday for scrutiny by Parliament.

He said the ministry's version included a hidden agenda, such as a condition that said approval from an independent body was regarded as granted if it did not specifically issue a disapproval order within 90 days and another that placed the entire process under the minister's supervision.

The SGWA will launch a petition drive to gather the signatures of 15,000 people who supported the people's bill. He said more than 500 large projects outside the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate would also need to undergo public approval and public hearings before commencing, if Article 67 were to be strictly followed.