On 7 February 2006, the FTA Watch warned about the catastrophe that would arise from the US’s FTA proposal on Intellectual Property Rights which was submitted in the sixth round of negotiations. It urged for the need to stop the negotiations and called on the people to closely watch the process and prevented tricky law amendment that might result as exemplified by the current hidden asset scandal case. If approved, the group feared that the proposal would ruin public health care system and cause Thailand’s biodiversity trillions baht from biopiracy.
According to Mr Witoon Lianchamroon, Director of Biodiversity and Community Rights Action, Thailand (Biothai) and member of FTA Watch, they learned about the content of the US’s proposal from www.bilaterals.org. He said, “we suspect that the document was leaked from the US side because although the negotiations are treated confidential, the US will have to notify the Congress occasionally. It is unlikely that the act came from the Thai side since the Thai negotiators are threatened with punishment for any disclosure. He also added that after checking, the document is confirmed genuine.
Dr Jiraporn Limpananont, Head of the Social Pharmacy Research Unit of the Chulalongkorn University said, “previously, we have demanded for the disclosure of the negotiation texts because without the texts, we are unable to assess the impacts. From the US’s proposal, there are demand on patents that go beyond TRIPs and additional demand that does not relate to patents which will extend the scope and patent period in plant, animal, living organism, diagnosis, therapy and surgical procedures. If Thailand accepts such proposals, Thai public health system will collapse like what has happened to the one of the world’s best Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme system in Australia after the conclusion of Australia- US FTA”.
The FTA Watch claims that the agreement will not only put the public health system of Thailand in jeopardy, the healthcare treatment will also be badly affected. Mr Buntoon Saertsirote, Director of the Strategic Policy on Natural Resources Base Project of the National Human Right Commission pointed out, “presently, the US wants to undermine Thailand’s good law. For example, the Plant Varieties Protection Act which was designed to cope with biopiracy, the US realizes that the existence of the law will force it to pay trillions of baht for the use of Thailand’s plant varieties, animals and local wisdoms in developing new innovation for patenting. Therefore, the US’s proposal intends to tear the Thai law down.”
Mr Buntoon further said that he has seen an amendment of the patent law drafted by the Department of Intellectual Property and it has the same content as that in the US’ s proposal. “I anticipate that this may end up like the hidden asset scandal that the law is amended 1 or 2 days before the signature of the Thailand-US FTA. So I request the press and people to follow this closely”
The press conference was held on 7 February at the Thai Journalist Association in Bangkok.