EARTH Thailand

Group demands public involvement in Eastern Corridor

The Nation 27 April 2017 | PRATCH RUJIVANAROM

RIGHTS CAMPAIGNERS in the Eastern Region have asked the government to respect their rights, and claim that the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development was pushing forward without public involvement.

Academics and rights campaigners yesterday demanded that the government disclose the complete EEC Bill, conduct a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA), and protect people and community rights from the EEC development.

Kan Tattiyakul, the coordinator of the Eastern Ally Network, said the EEC development must be properly regulated and assessed with an RIA and local people must be allowed to be involved during the process.

“We found that the progress of the EEC contains several legal shortcuts and local people were kept out of the process. So people who will be directly affected by this mega-project cannot get the information and participate in the project,” Kan said.

He said his organisation had tried to view the most recent draft of EEC Bill, but the Industry Ministry Permanent Secretary Office had refused to hand over a copy.

“This project is a matter of our future but we are deprived of participation in this development. We want to design our own future, not just let the government do whatever it wants without considering our livelihoods,” he said.

“We do not object to the development, but we are already suffering from problems with the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Zones and we want the government to make sure that our problems, such as pollution or wealth disparity, are solved before they begin the new major development.”

Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand director Penchom Saetang said according to article 77 of the new Constitution just came into effect earlier this month, the government had a duty to comply with the Constitution and conduct an RIA on the EEC Bill.

Unjust development

“The EEC is another major development in the Eastern Region, thus the bill must pass an RIA conducted by a neutral agency and have public participation before it becomes a law,” Penchom said.

“This is to ensure that the newly formed EEC will not trade the rights of people to live in a healthy environment for privileges for investors.”

She said the allowance for foreign investors to lease land for 99 years was not new, and the Eastern Region had already experienced industrial development on the Eastern Seaboard for about 40 years. 

She asked who would be responsible for the restoration of severely polluted land – which investors will leave behind at the end of the Eastern Seaboard lease in 50 years – after they had already gained tremendous profits.

Decharut Sukkumnoed, a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics, Kasetsart University, said the current trend of EEC development was unjust, as the government compromised the rights of local people and gave privileges to investors.

“A good development should consider the impact on all aspects not just the economic side, and local people must benefit from the development too,” he said.