Lawyers and environmental activists are pushing for a court to be set up to handle the increasingly large number of cases related to the environment.
Somchai Armeen, a member of the Lawyers Council of Thailand's environment committee, said environmental lawsuits cases are usually complicated, resulting in long trials.
The lengthy court proceedings mean that individuals who need a quick result to stop environmental offences that are harming their livelihoods are forced to wait, Mr Somchai said.
He was speaking at a seminar on environmental justice jointly organised by the Lawyers Council of Thailand and Enlaw, an NGO working on environmental justice.
In many cases, the time-consuming process prevented problems from being addressed before they caused permanent ecological damage, he said. A special court should therefore be set up to handle environmental cases exclusively, the lawyer said.
Those seeking justice in environmental cases currently have to file lawsuits at several courts, including the criminal, civil and administrative courts.
"On average, an environmental case takes more than 10 years before the final verdict," he said. "If there was an environment court, the cases would be concluded within a shorter period."
The Lawyers Council says the number of environmental cases has doubled since 1997, when the lead contamination in Kanchanaburi's Klity Creek was exposed, raising public awareness about environmental justice. There are currently about 40 new environmental cases each year.
Administrative Court spokesman Pairoj Minden said more attention is now being paid to environmental lawsuits and that each court has a dedicated division for them.
However, he admitted the judges are unable to cope with the large number of environmental cases.
"The problem we are facing now is that most environment cases are filed to the court without sufficient information being provided. These weak cases will only end up being rejected," he said. Mr Pairoj added that some plaintiffs filed cases only for public attention rather than to fight for environmental justice.
Chantima Thanasawangkul, an official from the Office of the Attorney-General, said she expected a large number of cases in the near future related to the government's 350 billion baht water management scheme.
Many projects under the scheme could lead to conflicts between state agencies and locals, she warned.
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- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin