Bangkok Post 12 February 2007
TRADE / THAI-JAPANESE FTA
Activists want waste provisions to be removed from agreement
Activists have called on the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to remove trade in waste and micro-organism patenting from the Japan-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
The text of the agreement, which is to reach the NLA on Wednesday, allows trade in disposed waste which is banned by Thai law, said Buntoon Srethasirote, director of a National Human Rights Commission environment study project and a member of the group FTA Watch.
A study commissioned by the Pollution Control Department which was released last year revealed that Thailand has already faced serious problems in enforcing the laws and controlling the transportation and elimination of banned waste products, he said.
The country lacks adequate penalties and legal measures to deal with the problem, he added.
Trade without tight controls would aggravate conflicts in local communities which have already struggled to keep areas from being developed as waste landfill or incineration sites.
It would also expose Thailand to environmental hazards, said Walaiporn Mooksuwan, researcher at the Campaign for Alternative Industry Network. If trade of waste remained in the free trade agreement, Thailand would become a dumping haven for Japan’s industrial waste, she said.
Japan, she said, has emitted the highest amount of fatal chemical dioxins into the environment at nearly 4,000 grammes per toxic equivalent per year, followed by the US with nearly 3,000 grammes per toxic equivalent per year.
Ms Walaiporn said the Pollution Control Department’s study indicated that only half of 1.5 million tonnes of hazardous industrial waste in Thailand has been properly treated, while the remaining half was not monitored or was illegally treated or transported.
Despite the Hazardous Substance Act (1992) and the Factory Act (1992), Thailand was already facing imports of waste products such as unused tyres and lead-acid batteries that were barred by the two laws, the activist said.
Statistics from the Customs Department show that Thailand imported 65,883 units of used tyres, worth 469 million baht, and nearly 2,000 units of used lead-acid accumulators in 2005.
Japan was also the biggest exporter of ashes and kelp, with nearly 300 million kilogrammes destined for Thailand.