A burning question
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A burning question

Fires at deserted chemical warehouses in Rayong and Ayutthaya provinces have been causing shocking amounts of pollution. What is even more disconcerting is that they may not be the normal kind of accidents that take place during the scorching heat of summer.

Police investigators are probing if arson was involved in the two recent cases, which are reportedly connected. One of the deserted warehouses ravaged by fire on April 22 is owned by Win Process Co and located in Rayong's Ban Khai district. Another warehouse, which was struck by a blaze on Wednesday, is owned by Aek Uthai Co and is in Phachi district of Ayutthaya.

Neither building had a permit to operate. Despite being ordered by the Department of Industrial Works to move their hazardous waste elsewhere, they closed down their respective businesses but still left mountains of hazardous waste on the premises.

The fires gutted large amounts of toxic waste, thus incurring high costs if they are to be treated by professional companies

Win Process Co had reportedly moved some of its toxic waste to a warehouse in Phachi district of Ayutthaya earlier. Notably, that same warehouse experienced another fire in February. But local police seem to have ruled out arson in both cases, at least initially.

Investigators are now checking up on the ownership and what activities were conducted at the warehouses.

What transpired in Rayong and Ayutthaya hints at the dark side of the recycling business in Thailand.

There are 2,500 factories that provide such a service in Thailand. A handful are large, professional companies that cater to publicly listed or foreign companies.

The majority are small, low-cost operations in community areas or close to farms. There are a number of reports of toxic garbage being dumped in public places. Some companies were forced to close down their business after being ordered by the court to compensate villagers for the pollution their operations caused. These operators just packed up and left the burden of toxic waste to the communities to deal with.

What is equally worrying is the way the government deals with the problem. As usual, the government rushes to provide quick fixes.

Law enforcement just chases the immediate culprits such as the managers involved. And after the news reports and media attention fizzle out, the problem is quickly swept back under the carpet.

Pollution from factory waste and recycling stems from weak law enforcement. Some corrupt officials help irresponsible operators cut corners. But the current law and policy are insufficient to address this problem.

Attempts by civic groups to pass the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) have not received much attention from either the previous or current government. The PRTR will force factories to report the chemical and hazardous waste they keep to the public.

Given the catalogue of accidents, it would be ir-responsible and grossly inefficient if the Lower House and government choose not to pass this law.

It is about time the Srettha government cancels NCPO order 4/2559 issued by the former junta government in 2016 to promote the recycling business. The executive order permits recycling facilities to be located in communities.

It remains a burning question why the Pheu Thai government that has tried to repeal so many policies prescribed by the former Prayut administration did not cancel this 4/2559 ordinance as well. Perhaps now it's time to scrap this order once and for all.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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