The Central Administrative Court's swift action in ordering a temporary halt to the transport and storage of coal in part of Samut Sakhon province has proved, once again, that the court remains a trusted last resort when other state agencies have failed woefully to protect public safety.
Four days after the murder of Thongnak Sawekchinda, a prominent environmental activist in Samut Sakhon who led the protest against coal shipments through the province, the Central Administrative Court on Monday issued an injunction temporarily halting all coal-related activities in Tambon Tha Sai in Muang district.
The court’s unusually swift action, which might have been prompted by the protest by Thongnak’s supporters and sympathisers, means a reprieve of sorts for the residents of Muang, Ban Phaeo and Krathum Baen districts who have for many years suffered health-threatening air pollution from dust and fumes emanating from coal depots and processing factories in their communities.
For the last five years Thongnak had led villagers in the three districts in a continuing protest against the air pollution problem caused by coal-related activities. On July 26, two days before he was gunned down in front of his house in Muang district of Samut Sakhon, he and two associates took the case to the Central Administrative Court.
The court’s injuction suspending all coal-related activities is a slap in the face to the provincial authorities, particularly the industrial works officials for their thoughtless decision to allow coal depots and factories to be set up in residential communities.
They are also to be blamed for their failure to properly regulate the operations of the depots and factories to ensure public safety. As such, the provincial governor must order an inquiry to determine if any of these officials have vested interests in these coal-related activities so proper punishment can be meted out against them.
Police have also done a great job in the investigation into Thongnak’s murder, which is believed to be linked to his key role in the protests.
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