I laud the Supreme Administrative Court for ordering the Pollution Control Department (PCD) pay almost Bt4m to 22 Karen villagers over lead contamination in Klity Creek. Lead was illegally discharged by the Lead Concentrate Co, and the firm has been shut.
The verdict against the PCD was for being extremely slow in cleaning up the contamination, depriving villagers of water, eg, the PCD took 9 months after learning about the contamination to seek permission to rehabilitate the creek. The court ruled that the PCD’s handling of this case showed it lacked a proper emergency response plan, and that “the PCD must act URGENTLY to clean up the creek and bring lead levels back to acceptable norms.”
But despite its historical importance, the court’s judgement will seemingly do little to change the way the PCD operates. Director-general Wichien Jungrungruang said that he’d seek government money to pay the plaintiffs – in other words, dear reader, you and I will be held financially accountable for PCD incompetency. Not only that, Khun Wichien’s going to allow the lead to dilute naturally, in direct opposition to the court’s order that the PCD act “urgently”. It’s business as usual, and who cares about the villagers? This from a government repeatedly elected with an overwhelming majority, which professes to love the “prai”.
To prevent occurrences, and hasten compliance with court orders, the decision-makers must be held accountable. Thus, for example, before Lead Concentrate Co was allowed to operate, the PCD should have ensured that the firm had a system to prevent lead contamination that met rigorous international standards, and obtained bank guarantees sufficient to cover any possible damage. The chief civil servants responsible for the PCD’s incompetence should be held accountable for their ineptitude also, by having all but food money of 700 baht/month of their pensions/salaries held in escrow until the court ruling has been fully complied with.
Let those judged as incompetent or negligent be held accountable for their misdeeds, and prevent tragedies in the making.