EARTH Thailand

Residents get payout over fires at landfill dump

Bangkok Post 17 July 2016

Writer: Suthiwit Chayutworakan & Penchan Charoensuthipan

Residents affected by potentially hazardous smoke from fires at the Praeksa landfill dump in Samut Prakan two years ago have each received 3,000 baht in compensation from the dump owner following a settlement.

About 1,300 residents went to pick up their cheques at the Praeksa tambon administration organisation office in Muang district of Samut Prakan yesterday.

The payout was made by Tung Denchai, the company that owns the dump and which was sued for damages in the Civil Court by residents following the fires in mid-2014 that produced toxic air pollution that led to several households being evacuated.

However, the compensation was much less than the 100,000 baht a person that residents had demanded.

Residents said the payout may not amount to very much given the potential health hazard from the smoke.

However, they were satisfied with the company's promise to rehabilitate the area around the dump and make it a safer environment.

The rehabilitation project is to be run by a working group made up of residents, the company, environmentalists and relevant authorities such as the Department of Pollution Control, Department of Groundwater Resources and Public Health Ministry.

Sila Thongkham, adviser to the anti-Praeksa garbage dump network, said residents affected by the fires had sought legal assistance from the Lawyers Council of Thailand, which sent its team of environmental law specialists to study the problem and look into residents' grievances.

The council appointed lawyers to sue the company and the Praeksa TAO for damages. In the class suits, the residents demanded 100,000 baht in compensation each and insisted the company and the TAO must improve conditions at the garbage dump site in line with the DPC's regulations.

The Civil Court accepted the case for consideration. Later, residents and the firm agreed a court-mediated settlement that the residents would receive 3,000 baht each.

Suchart Naknok, a leader of the residents' network against the landfill, said residents have agreed to drop a civil charge following the compensation.

However, residents still demand the removal of the garbage dump from the area, he said.

"In fact, compensation is not the main goal of our fight. We want the problem to be solved sustainably," he said.