By Pratch Rujivanarom
The integrated group of environmental movements from across the country, under the umbrella The People’s Network for Sustainable Development, protested in front of Government House in Bangkok yesterday, calling for the revocation of the new environmental bill.
The protesters met with Sompas Nilapund, deputy secretary–general to the Office of the Prime Minister, and submitted the petition to PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha, urging him to halt the passage of the bill and set up a new working group to redraft the bill.
The activists want the new working group to have equal representation from the public sector and authorities and the content of the bill should be mutually agreed by both sides.
Currently, the bill is under the consideration of National Legislative Assembly and was approved on its first reading on November 24.
The opposition group said the new bill would do nothing to improve the original law, especially the regulations about Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA). It also contained many flaws and would worsen the problems related to protecting the environment, the group said.
They also criticised the fact the new bill has been pushed forward to the NLA too speedily and without taking heed of public-sector suggestions about its flaws.
Silpakorn University lecturer Somnuck Jongmeewasin agreed with the opposition group, saying the bill was seriously flawed in relation to violations of the Constitution and contained many legal loopholes, which could allow project owners to easily push forward harmful projects.
“The public sector and academics tried to suggest improvements to the bill but … were neglected. We also noticed an effort to add content that would benefit the progression of harmful projects, for instance the unjust NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order) order to let projects continue without having to wait for EIA approval,” Somnuck said.
However, Buntoon Srethasirote, the member of the reform committee on natural resources and environmental management, said the legislation, which was currently being reviewed by the NLA, did not constitute the entire bill. It only referred to the regulation about EIA/EHIA reformation, as the government had to follow a timeframe for issuing the legislation as per the provision of the Constitution.
“I agree that the EIA/EHIA reformation on this bill still needs more improvement in order to align with the Constitution, solve the existed problems of the system and add a more advanced regulation to upgrade our EIA/EHIA process,” Buntoon said.
However, he believed the legislation could be improved by the NLA and there was no need to draft the entire bill.