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Lawsuit threat against govt

Sep 24. 2011
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By The Nation on Sunday

Srisuwan warns of legal action if bill on environmental protection, public health not put before Parliament this week

The president of the Thailand Anti-Global Warming Association has vowed to take the Yingluck government to court if it fails to submit a crucial environmental protection and public-health bill to Parliament.

Srisuwan Chanya said in a statement yesterday that the government could face a number of lawsuits if House deliberations on the Independent Agency on Environment and Health bill does not start by the deadline next Thursday.

The bill, which is organic law Article 66 and 67 of the Constitution and involves the right of persons and communities to participate in the conservation, preservation and exploitation of natural resources, was drafted and went through the public hearing process during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.

But it has not yet been passed into law since Abhisit dissolved Parliament and called a general election.

In light of the House dissolution, according to the law, bills that have yet to be deliberated on are automatically thrown out of the House agenda unless the new government requests Parliament for deliberation within 60 days after the House reconvenes its first session, which took place on August 1.

"This is not a threat but we will take the government to court if it refuses to bring the bill for Parliament's consideration by September 29," he said.

Srisuwan said his group and allies had twice submitted a letter urging Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk to table the bill with the Independent Agency on the Environment and Health for House deliberation.

This would comply with government policy statement No 5.3 on land, natural resources and the environment that the government announced before the House on August 23.

Srisuwan said he had learnt that politicians - especially the former minister of the Natural resources Ministry - did not want this bill to take effect. State officials at the ministry also do not want this independent agency to dominate or "outshine" their work.

He went on to say that among the issues over which his group and allies would take the government to task were: the government's plan to construct a land bridge at Pak Bara in Satun; build IPP-SPP power plants across the country; construct 10 routes of the mass-transit system in Bangkok and motorways across the country; the government's cancellation of the Oil Fund and the policy to allow consumers 90 units of free use of electricity per month.

The group will also call for compensation for pollution caused by the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate. It will also oppose the establishment of the Ban Khai Industrial Estate in Rayong and the decision not to declare city zoning in the Map Ta Phut area.

Two years ago, on September 29, 2009, Srisuwan's group and other non-governmental organisations won a landmark victory when a court ordered a halt to 76 industrial development projects in the Map Ta Phut area worth an estimated Bt400 billion on grounds of environmental destruction.

The decision by the Rayong Administrative Court to declare the industrial zone as a pollution control area came as a severe shock to both businesses and the Abhisit government.

"The September 29 court order was like lightning struck into the heart of the government and businessmen and industrialists because no one expected that the human rights of small and humble villagers would cause an outcry among giant industrial conglomerates.

"No one thought that authoritative state officials would lose out in the legal procedure to the civic groups," Srisuwan said.

He said the Map Ta Phut cases are being tried in the Supreme Administrative Court and if the government and state agencies refuse to table the particular bill as requested, his group and allies will file suits one after the other "with no due respect".

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