EARTH Thailand

Police raid Chachoengsao plant in crackdown on foreign e-waste disposal

The Nation 22 May 2018  

POLICE SEARCHED a waste management plant in Chachoengsao’s Plaeng Yao district on Tuesday, responding to an allegation that hazardous industrial waste had been smuggled from abroad to be burned at the facility, spreading toxins in the area.

National police deputy chief Pol General Weerachai Songmetta led the raid by police and officials at 9am against WMD (Wai Mei Dat) Thai Recycling Co Ltd’s 100-rai factory in Tambon Plaeng Yao. The action came in response to Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan’s directive to the Royal Thai Police to crackdown on such wrongdoers. 

Officers found the factory was operating normally when they arrived. Huge piles of electronic waste such as keyboards, electrical wires and computers were sitting ready for workers to recycle or discard by burning or other methods. 

Most of the workers handling the toxic waste were found to be undocumented and untrained Lao and Myanmar migrants being paid Bt9,000 a month.

Burning electronic circuit boards to extract heavy metals risked contamination of the surrounding environment, while hard plastic parts were toxic when burnt or would take millions of years to disintegrate when buried, said Weerachai, adding that this hazardous industrial waste required specific and proper disposal methods.

Weerachai and deputy chief of the Tourism Police Bureau Pol Maj General Surachet Hakpan led a search involving five ministries – Natural Resources and Environment, Public Health, Industry, Justice and the Ministry of Finance. 

Weerachai said the unnamed Chinese owner of the facility was accused of importing potentially dangerous electronic waste under false Customs declarations.

“Thailand is now among the world’s top-ranked countries in terms of volume of electronic waste because foreign investors are smuggling the trash here – declaring it as second-hand goods – for disposal,” Weerachai said, citing a report that Hong Kong had over 100,000 tonnes of electronic waste pending distribution to other countries for disposal.