International health activists have stepped up pressure on Thailand and other Asian countries to ban the use of asbestos.
The Asian Ban Asbestos Network (Aban) issued a declaration at its meeting in Bangkok yesterday.
The delegates, who came from many Asian countries including India, Bangladesh, Iran and Indonesia, agreed urgent steps must be taken to make Asia an asbestos-free region.
Health experts say exposure to asbestos can cause serious diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
The declaration said Thailand is not doing its part to eliminate the use of asbestos.
"It's unacceptable that while Japan and South Korea have recognised the dire consequences of exposure to asbestos for human health, Thailand, China, Indonesia and other countries have not," the declaration said.
Laurie Kazan-Allen, coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (Ibas), said that up to 4 million tonnes of asbestos has been used in Thailand in the past 60 years.
The UK banned asbestos in 1999, she said.
No ban has been issued in Thailand despite a resolution nearly two years ago by the National Health Commission supporting such a step, Ms Kazan-Allen said.
The lives of workers and the public would remain in danger until a ban is imposed. "The asbestos industry manipulates the media and the government by spreading false information [about the dangers of asbestos]," Ms Kazan-Allen said.
In April last year, the cabinet approved the National Health Assembly's resolution to ban the use of asbestos.
However, state agencies, including the Ministry of Industry, which is in charge of issuing asbestos use permits, has not made any progress on the matter, said Adul Bandnukul, coordinator of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network.
The lack of information about asbestos use in Thailand is preventing authorities from banning asbestos, Mr Adul said.
"It's difficult to track down workers who have worked with asbestos," he said.
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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat