Cablegate: Baby Steps Toward the Resolution of the Map Ta Phut Impasse

DE RUEHBK #0234/01 0281013
P 281013Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Baby Steps Toward the Resolution of the Map Ta Phut Impasse

REF: A) 09 BANGKOK 701 B) 09 BANGKOK 1909 C) 09 BANGKOK 2597 D) 09
BANGKOK 2678 E) 09 BANGKOK 2742 F) 09 BANGKOK 3068

BANGKOK 00000234 001.2 OF 002

Sensitive But Unclassified. For Official Use Only.

1. (SBU) Summary: While the Royal Thai Government has made some
progress towards the resolution of the Map Ta Phut impasse, the end
is not yet in sight. Some of the necessary guidelines that will
enable companies to comply with Article 67 of the Thai Constitution
have been established; however, until all requirements are clearly
spelled out, the companies with 64 suspended projects cannot even
begin the formal application process. Once established, the
procedures will require technical environmental and health
assessments, public hearings, and an assessment from an independent
body, a process which could take up to 6 or 8 months. Hopes for a
faster resolution via an alternate path were dashed on January 22
when the Central Administrative Court refused to review the
petitions of 30 projects that were seeking permission to proceed.
The court ruled that the projects had yet to comply with Article 67,
so must remain suspended in accordance with the September and
December court orders. End Summary.

Limited Progress Towards Resolution

2. (U) The Royal Thai Government (RTG) has established some of the
necessary guidelines that will enable companies to comply with
constitutional mandates for environmental and health impact
assessments. Article 67 of the 2007 Constitution requires that
prior to the operation of any project or activity that "may
seriously affect the community with respect to the quality of the
environment, natural resources and health," the following must be
completed: an environmental impact assessment (EIA); a health impact
assessment (HIA); a public hearing for affected citizens; and an
assessment from an independent body consisting of representatives
from environmental and health organizations as well as academia.

3. (U) On December 29, the Cabinet approved a Ministry of Natural
Resources and Environment notification containing HIA, EIA, and
public hearing guidelines. The guidelines were based on
recommendations of the four-party panel (see ref F), which is
chaired by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun and includes
environmentalists, community activists, representatives from the
business sector, and government officials. This notification
established the guidelines for three of the four requirements stated
in Article 67.

4. (U) On January 12, the Cabinet approved a plan to address the
development of the independent body that would consist of
representatives from environmental and health organizations and
academia, the fourth requirement of Article 67. According to a
member of the four-party panel, the plan is to develop a 13 member
temporary independent body to bridge the gap until a permanent body
can be approved by an Act of Parliament, which is expected to take
over a year. The 13 members of the temporary body will be selected
by a 19 member coordinating committee that will work together with
selected NGOs and academics to establish the independent body. The
independent body will draft its own administrative rules and
assessment guidelines. While the independent body will have no
decision making power, it will evaluate the EIAs and HIAs before the
licensing authority can issue permits. Thus the role of the
independent body will be critical to the operation of companies. On
January 19, the Cabinet approved membership of the new coordinating
committee. For the most part, the committee has the same membership
as the four-party panel; former Prime Minister Anand will again
serve as the Chairman.

5. (U) Still to be done by the four-party panel is to define exactly
which projects will be considered potentially "harmful" and must
comply with Section 67. Work has reportedly been done, but a list
has not yet been issued.

But End Still Not In Sight

6. (U) While the RTG has developed some of the necessary
regulations, establishment of the regulations and independent body
will merely permit the companies to begin the process. According to
Prime Minister Abhisit in his January 14 Foreign Correspondents'
Club of Thailand speech, completion of the HIA, EIA, public
hearings, and assessment from the independent panel could take up to
6 or 8 months. After that, there will likely be additional time
waiting for the licensing authority to review the evaluation of the
independent body and the public hearings before receiving approval
to proceed.

A New Legal Challenge

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7. (SBU) On January 20, the Stop Global Warming Association filed a
petition with the Supreme Administrative Court seeking revocation of
the January 12 PM's Office Ministerial Regulation and the
appointment of the coordinating committee. The petition argued that
hearings should have been held to allow for public comment prior to
the action being taken. When asked about this petition, Dr. Somrat
Yindepit, a member of the four-party panel, dismissed any concerns.
In his opinion, this was simply a stalling tactic on the part of the

No Way Around for 64 Projects, Including Dow

8. (SBU) Hopes were dashed on January 22 when the Central
Administrative Court refused to review the petitions of 30 projects
that were seeking to be released from suspension. The court stated
that the projects had not yet complied with Article 67 and thus are
still suspended according the September Central Administrative Court
order and the December Supreme Administrative Court order. These 30
projects (including 4 from Dow) are part of the 64 projects that
remain suspended in the Map Ta Phut industrial area. (Note: The
December Supreme Administrative Court ruling (Ref F) upheld the
suspension order of 65 of the 76 projects originally suspended by
the September injunction (Ref C). On December 23, the number of
suspended projects dropped to 64 when the Central Administrative
Court ruled that Siam Yamato Steel, a joint venture of Siam Cement
Group, could resume operations because the firm received an
operating license two days before the promulgation of the 2007
constitution and thus was not subject to the terms of the
injunction. End Note.)

9. (SBU) Dow representatives are extremely upset with this latest
development, as the government recommended that the companies
involved appeal to the courts and Dow assumed that by doing so some
arrangement had been worked out between the government and the court
that would allow at least some projects to move forward. Now it is
clear that the government had made no such effort. Dow will now
recommend that the RTG, the original party to the initial suit,
resubmit the petitions on behalf of the companies. According to Dow
representatives, the lack of clarity and required procedures will
have serious implications for their project if they are unable to
resume operations within 6 months. Dow CEO Andrew Liveris is
planning to meet with the Prime Minister on the margins of the World
Economic Forum in Davos to express the company's concerns and to
seek guidance on the way forward.

© Scoop Media

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