EARTH Thailand

Court to look into details of 76 industrial developments

Bangkok Post 28 August 2009  

Villagers seek an order to stop project permits

The Central Administrative Court has ordered eight agencies to provide it with details of 76 industrial projects planned for development in Rayong's Map Ta Phut area.

The Stop Global Warming Association and 42 pollution-affected villagers sought a court injunction to suspend the projects and their approved environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies.

The plaintiffs accused the National Environment Board and seven other agencies of not following the constitution's Article 67, which states a project seen as harmful to the environment and people's health must undergo public hearings before it could be endorsed.

The court refused to issue an injunction or conduct an emergency hearing of the case, but ordered the plaintiffs and the eight defendants to submit details of the 76 projects within 15 days.

Stop Global Warming Association president Srisuwan Janya said the court required the plaintiffs to show how the 76 industrial plants would harm local people's health and the environment.

The court also told the defendants to report on the construction process and potential impact of the projects, Mr Srisuwan said.

The Stop Global Warming Association and the villagers lodged a court complaint in June.

The case is pending trial.

On Tuesday, the cabinet agreed to a Joint State-Private Committee resolution to allow agencies to proceed with issuing permits for industrial projects after it engaged in close legal consultations with the Council of State.

The cabinet resolution spurred the plaintiffs into seeking a court injunction to stop the issuing of permits, Mr Srisuwan said.

Sutthi Atchasai, a leader of the Eastern People's Network, which spearheads local people's fight against pollution in Rayong, said the villagers would hold a mass gathering at Map Ta Phut industrial estate on Sept 9 to pressure the government to follow Article 67 of the constitution.

The article requires the government to arrange for an independent environmental agency to give advice on implementation of projects that could be harmful to people's health and the environment.

Activists also urged the government to draw up a list of activities that are considered dangerous to people's health and the environment.

"It is going to be a very long protest which may have an impact on industrial activity if we don't get a clear answer from the government on how it translates Article 67 into action," Mr Sutthi said.

Meanwhile, Industry Minister Charnchai Chairungruang yesterday shrugged off the court order, saying the ministry had followed health and environmental protection regulations when dealing with industrial development.

He said the ministry was working on a list of projects with a critical impact on health and the environment under Article 67.

The list would be submitted for cabinet consideration.