EARTH Thailand

PM steps in to find solution

The Nation 17 February 2010 | Chularat Saengpassa, Hassaya Chartmontree

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is trying to mediate between the Council of State and the four-party panel seeking solutions to the Map Ta Phut deadlock over changes to the panel's draft law to establish an industrial watchdog.

This independent organisation is expected to play a key role in striking a balance between ecological soundness and rapid industrial development."I have already talked to the secretary-general of the Council of State about the matter," Abhisit said yesterday.

Former premier Anand Panyarachun, who heads the four-party panel, is also set to meet with the Council of State, the government's legal advisory arm, over the draft.

Harnnarong Yaowalert said Anand had planned this move after the Council of State reportedly tried to change some key points in the draft law prepared by his panel.

"If the Council of State convenes its next meeting over the draft law for this independent organisation, Anand plans to show up along with many of his panel members," he said.

The Anand panel was set up several months ago to solve the environmental problems in Rayong's MapTa Phut industrial zone.

It has also tried to untangle the legal web that has snared dozens of big industrial projects in the Map Ta Phut area. The Supreme Administrative Court has put them on hold for failing to comply with the Constitution.

Article 67(2) of the charter requires that any project with possible serious impacts on the environment, natural resources and health seek comments and opinions from an independent organisation before starting up.

Word has spread that the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning has lobbied against the Anand panel's draft.

"We have even heard that the Council of State may suggest the formation of a professional body, not the independent organisation. So, we have to show up there and defend our draft," Harnnarong said.

His panel's draft believes the independent organisation should have the mandate to comment on projects with possible serious impacts on one or more of the three areas of concern - natural resources, health and environment.

"We don't think the projects must have impacts on [all] three areas for the independent organisation to act," he said.

Pending the inception of the official independent organisation, a temporary independent organisation will be put together so that many industrial projects could resume quickly.

Harnnarong said the selection of the members of the temporary independent organisation would begin and be completed next month.

"After that, the temporary independent organisation should be able to start working," he added.