EARTH Thailand

Civil groups take legal action over accidents

Bangkok Post 09 May 2012

Negligence claimed at Map Ta Phut factories

Civil groups will file lawsuits against state agencies and petrochemical firm operators for alleged negligence that led to two accidents in Map Ta Phut.

The Eastern People's Network and the Stop Global Warming Association will file separate lawsuits against the industry minister, the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) and operators of BST Elastomers Co and Aditya Birla Co, where the chemical-related accidents killed a dozen people and injured more than 200 last weekend.

Explosions and a fire broke out at 3.20pm at BST's plant on Saturday while workers were cleaning production lines with tuolene – a solvent used in the synthetic rubber manufacturing process. Twelve people were killed.

On Sunday, almost 140 workers were rushed to hospital after inhaling toxic gas discharged from Aditya Birla Chemicals' plant at the Hemaraj Eastern Seaboard industrial estate.

Suthi Atchasai, leader of the Rayong-based Eastern People's Network, yesterday said the IEAT and operators of the plants should be held responsible.

Mr Suthi, who has been fighting industrial pollution in Map Ta Phut for years, said he would lodge a police complaint against the IEAT and the companies by the end of this week.

The network will also lodge a complaint with the Administrative Court, asking it to prohibit the IEAT from granting operating permits to factories at Rayong's industrial estates.

No new factories should be allowed to operate until emergency plans have been upgraded, he said.

"We would also ask the court to order the IEAT to implement the disaster response master plan, which has recently been endorsed by the National Health Commission," Mr Suthi said.

Stop Global Warming Association chairman Srisuwan Janya yesterday said he would ask the Administrative Court tomorrow to order the Industry Ministry and the IEAT to revoke the operating licences for BST Elastomers and Aditya Birla.

He would also ask the court to order the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning to revoke the environmental and health impact assessment report of the plants.

IEAT governor Verapong Chaiperm said he would hold talks with the Eastern People's Network this week to discuss their concerns about safety management.

"If they insist on proceeding with the lawsuits, the agency will be ready to testify before the court," he said.

Mr Verapong said emergency response plans for the IEAT-run industrial estates were reliable. IEAT officials inspect safety measures at factories every three months, he said.

IEAT deputy governor Peerawat Rungruangsri said four factories adjacent to the BST plant were damaged by the blasts.