EARTH Thailand

Company faces legal action over alleged fraud in the import of plastic garbage

The Nation 02 June 2018 | KORNKAMOL AKSORNDECH

RAIDS on recycling plants and containers of plastics importers are being ramped up in the wake of a recent controversy over an e-waste operation.

Thai authorities yesterday intercepted 58 tonnes of compressed plastic garbage found in four huge containers at the Lat Krabang Industrial Estate in Bangkok, while the Customs Department was poised to punish Samut Sakhon-based Longluck Plastic and Metal Co for allegedly making a false declaration. 

The firm reportedly declared that the containers carried plastic pieces imported from the US. 

The violation drew the attention of national police deputy chief Pol General Weerachai Songmetta, who was accompanied during the raid by Lat Krabang Customs Office director Tada Chumchaiyo and Department of Industrial Works (DIW) scientist Chayakorn Khotchaseni.

Weerachai said that the DIW had found cases of deliberate mislabelling of plastic trash originating from 35 other countries, including Hong Kong, the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, and China.

Imported plastics must receive approval from the Commerce Minister or an authorised representative and the imported plastics must be separated by type and must not require additional cleaning under Thai regulations.

“These plastic piles are foul-smelling, dirty plastic trash. A lot of water will be required to wash the over 50 tonnes [of dirty plastic] and the water would then create pollution in Thailand,” Weerachai said.

Importing unclean plastic is punishable with up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of five times the value of the good, under the Industry Ministry’s 1979 regulation. A false declaration of imported items is punishable by an up to Bt500,000 fine as per the Customs Act, Weerachai said. 

“We are trying to stop people bringing toxic trash to dump in Thailand so that this country won’t become the world’s garbage hub,” he said.

The operation followed Wednesday’s successful search of six containers at the Laem Chabang Port – declared as carrying plastic parts – that actually carried electronic trash and crushed arcade game cabinets, resulting in legal actions against the two private companies that imported them.

Chayakorn said the DIW would check on the company that imported the latest four loaded containers to see if they possessed machines that could immediately process the dirty plastic, while Tada said his office would punish the company for making a false declaration to customs officials.

In a related development, Samut Prakan Provincial Administrative Organisation executive Chana Nguan-ngamsrialong, along with related agencies, inspected a recycling factory in Tambon Khlong Dan of Bang Bo district on Thursday afternoon. 

They found hundreds of tonnes of electronic garbage and rounded up 18 Chinese migrant workers who were unable to present work permits. 

Chana, in his capacity as a representative of the provincial committee to solve environmental problems and pollution, said the committee had received complaints from local residents. The residents – mainly local fish and shrimp farmers – were concerned that the plant’s electronic trash-recycling operation might not be legal. 

The plant had been inspected in the past and ordered to stop operating, said Tambon Khlong Dan Administrative Organisation deputy president Aran Yoolhong. As the plant continued its activities, the local authority had alerted related agencies to inspect it and make arrests.

The plant has now been ordered to close, while the DIW has been contacted to proceed with legal actions against those involved. The undocumented workers were sent to the Immigration Police.