EARTH Thailand

Map Ta Phut residents rally for govt's assistance

The Nation 16 May 2012  

A group of protesters rallied outside Government House yesterday to demand that the authorities urgently start assisting those affected by the recent factory explosion in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong province.

Sutthi Atchasai, the chief of the Stop Global Warming Association who led the gathering, called for a government-commissioned management of future chemical leaks and an immediate imposition of industrial safety regulations, which he said have been lax. He also demanded that the areas near the factory be rehabilitated.  

Sutthi, who was behind the petition against the lack of a mandatory environmental study at the industrial estate, which later resulted in most projects being put on hold to this day, said the fire should be used as a precedent in establishing comprehensive industrial hazard prevention and management. He added that it should also set a precedent in fair and quick compensation under government supervision and declaration of storage locations where chemical or toxic materials are housed. 

The group, which comprises 20 activists, also called for the scrapping of investment in petrochemical plants both inside and outside the industrial compound or a review of projects that have been approved.  

The protesters submitted their demands to the prime minister through a representative before heading to the National Human Rights Commission, where they submitted their written petition. The group had earlier submitted their demands to the Senate committee on natural resources and environment. 

Senate committee chairman Senator Surachai Liangbunlertchai said he and other members of the panel would visit the factory on Wednesday and seek advice from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra directly on how to solve residents’ grievances.  

Deputy panel chairman Sujarit Cheeravej said Yingluck’s recent visit to the estate in her capacity as head of the National Public Disaster Relief and Prevention Commission had made little progress and yielded few solutions.  

“Rayong’s gross domestic product is the highest in the country, but people live in hellish conditions because the central and local authorities have paid very little attention to their welfare, while regulatory agencies are more concerned about investment output rather than residents being affected by industrial operations,” Sujarit added.