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Key parties pledge to review all FTAs

Bangkok Post

Key parties pledge to review all FTAs

Candidates promise to make some big changes

By Achara Ashayagachat

3 December 2007

Key political parties yesterday pledged to review free trade agreements (FTA) with Japan and other countries. Representatives of the Democrat and Matchimathipataya parties agreed that the FTA with Japan, formally the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA), should be reviewed.

The agreement took effect last month, amid criticism by civic groups which branded it unconstitutional for it bypassed the consideration of the National Legislative Assembly.

Weerachai Thavornthon, a member of the Democrat party’s Task Force on People Agenda, and Amarin Khoman, an adviser to the Matchimathipataya party, said the FTA with Japan as well as those with China and Australia should be reviewed to alleviate any adverse impact on the Thai side.

Mr Weerachai said a study was needed and the agreement and any amendments proposed should be discussed with Japan.

Weerasak Kowsurat, the Chart Thai deputy leader, said the FTAs with China and Australia should be reviewed. But he did not agree with a review of the JTEPA.

He said his party would form a farmers council that would have a say on FTA pacts and any development projects with adverse impacts on their livelihoods.

He added that a fund should be set up, with contributions from the sectors which benefit from the FTA pact to help the affected sectors.

Mr Weerachai said the Democrat Party would propose a public hearing law to encourage public participation.

The law, he said, will help ease conflicts from mega-projects including power plant construction.

He referred to a plan to build coal-powered plants at Thab Sa Kae in Prachuap Khiri Khan and also Bang Pakong in Chachoengsao.

The pledges were made at a forum held at the October 14 Memorial by activists affiliated to the Friends of People group, including advocates of organic farming, local conservation groups from Prachuap Khiri Khan and anti-globalisation networks.

The activists also rallied in Bang Lampu with banners against globalisation and the controversial Power Development Plan, which pushes for nuclear power.

The politicians promised to suspend or review the plan to develop nuclear power, which was pushed forward by the interim government.

Mr Weerachai said there should be more studies on alternative fuels, including renewables.

Chart Thai’s Mr Weerasak also added that there should be no further privatisations.

’’What is needed is an accountable, corruption-free and efficient procedure,’’ he said.

Mr Weerasak said the national energy board, and those of other state enterprises, should not be made up of retirees.

Instead, there should be more representatives from civic and academic groups to make these bodies real regulators.

He proposed that Asean should also come up with a common stance on building nuclear power plants in the region.

Both the Democrat and Chart Thai candidates did not agree with a government plan to allow open-field trials for genetically modified (GM) crops.

Mr Weerasak said the GM tests should be limited to demonstration farms.

The Democrats’ Mr Weerachai said the GM tests should be limited until there is credible research on GM problems.

Major parties including Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana and the People Power party did not send representatives to the forum.

Saree Ongsomwang, manager of the Consumers Foundation, was wary of the promises made by politicians at the forum, saying civic groups would have to monitor the parties if they formed the next government.

’’If they do not keep their word or back off from their promises, we will keep them in check,’’ she said.