EARTH Thailand

20 projects face higher legal hurdles

Bangkok Post 30 December 2009 | Nanchanok Wongsamuth

A total of 20 suspended projects at Map Ta Phut have weak legal grounds for seeking to overturn their court-ordered suspensions, says Industry Minister Charnchai Chairungruang.

Mr Charnchai made the comment yesterday after discussing with the affected industries the measures the ministry could take to help them.

To date, 12 projects have been dropped from the list of 76 suspended earlier by the court on environmental and health impact grounds. Most of them belong to the PTT Group but the number also includes Siam Yamato Steel Co, in which Siam Cement Group is a partner.

Of the 64 remaining projects, 25 could use the same legal arguments to proceed as PTT and Siam Yamato, namely that their environmental impact assessments (EIAs) were approved before the 2007 Constitution took effect.

Another 15 of the suspended projects are under construction and can lodge appeals to the court, since no pollution is being emitted yet. Four other projects valued at 1.6 billion baht have suspended operations on their own accord because of the poor economy, said Mr Charnchai.

The remaining 20 projects would need more specific reasons to present in court if they wish to continue.

Mr Sorayud said the operators of all 64 projects had the right to appeal to the court.

However, the 15 projects under construction could face risks if they complete construction and then find that some legal requirements were not met, said Sorayud Phettrakul, an adviser to the industry minister.

The four projects that have chosen to suspend operations are: a capacity expansion by PTT Aromatics and Refining Plc; a combined heat-power plant by Glow Energy Plc; Aisco Resources' steel production project; and a PVC polymer expansion project by Thai Plastic and Chemicals Plc.

Officials also said yesterday that the One Start One Stop Investment Center of the Board of Investment would serve as a clearing house to provide information and advice to the private sector on the case.

Payungsak Chartsutipol, the vice-chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the Industry Ministry would hold talks with the Labour Ministry about the impact on workers affected by the court-ordered suspensions.

The ministry has set up three working groups from the Industrial Works Department and the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand to help the industries seen as having the weakest legal cases.

The teams will hold talks with operators of the projects that are not yet under construction and not able to use the guidelines for the projects that have been recently able to move forward.

"Actually there is no pollution at all from some projects," said Mr Sorayud.

"For instance, BlueScope Steel (Thailand) only purchased a new piece of land but had to start over with the whole application process, which made it unable to proceed with operations."