Bangkok Post | 26.03.2007
FREE TRADE DEAL WITH JAPAN ACTIVISTS MARCH ON TV STATION
Trade pact opponents get air time
Activists opposed to the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan last night persuaded the TITV channel to air their views on the issue. About 300 members of consumer groups, HiV/Aids groups and farmers marched to the TITV studios on Vibhavadi Rangsit road after a seminar on the possible impact of the FTA deal which the interim government plans to sign with Japan next week.
They demanded a review of the trade pact, saying that as an interim body the government had no legitimacy to sign the agreement, which many people believed required more thorough study.
Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, a member of FTA Watch, said the civic groups wanted to air their concerns before the public on TITV, which was supposed to be a free and independent station.
The station agreed to set aside 15 minutes of air time. The activists’ views were taped and broadcast at 9.45pm, and were to due be repeated at midnight.
The group earlier launched an 80-page black-covered book on the Thai-Japan FTA agreement describing the ’’flawed process’’ of negotiations, and containing recommendations to the government.
FTA Watch’s Witoon Lianchamroon said the trade agreement, officially known as the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA), was modelled on the flawed, but now-defunct, FTA with the United States.
’’Instead of correcting the mistakes made by the past government, the interim government chose to proceed with the imbalanced trade-off between farmer benefits and those accruing to chicken and shrimp exporters,’’ he said.
Sukran Rojanapaiwong, from the Campaign for Alternative Industry Network, said the problematic issue concerning exports of Japan’s industrial hazardous waste should be struck from the text since responsible agencies such as the Pollution Control Department were not given a say in the negotiations.
Prapat Panyachatrak, deputy leader of the Chart Thai party, said party leader Banharn Silpa-archa had raised concerns and sought information from the Foreign Ministry.
Pisan Manawapat, JTEPA’s chief negotiator, met the Chart Thai party on Saturday, and gave Mr Banharn a copy of the 942-page text in a bid to convince the party that the trade pact would do no harm. Mr Prapat said the government should not rush into signing.
Kiat Sitthi-amorn, deputy leader of the Democrat party, said there was no point in rushing when the country had been put at a disadvantage by previous agreements with China and Australia.
Thailand should not give in to Japan on the issue of industrial waste, which was ’’worse than the agreements which Japan reached with Malaysia and the Philippines’’.
The activists said they would file a petition with the Administrative Court, seeking impeachment of government officials over the rush towards signing the FTA.