Police raid overkill
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Police raid overkill

Last Thursday, a large number of police, including a commando unit armed with assault rifles, raided three locations in Rayong province to search for evidence over allegations of illegal dumping of industrial waste by Win Process chemical recycling company.

The company has a number of recycling factories, including a decommissioned one in the province's Ban Khai district, which was the site of an explosion in April that caused wildfires and severe air pollution.

Two of the three locations raided are houses of the former wife and son of Opas Boonchan, who is Win Process' director and owner. But the only evidence found was a piece of A4 paper bearing several rubber stamp seals of state agencies, which may suggest that Win Process might have falsified official documents.

Such a dramatic exercise of police power is tantamount to the Thai saying, "Riding an elephant to catch a grasshopper". The use of such a large force was totally unnecessary. It was a waste of manpower and not proportionate to the mission.

The people in Ban Khai district, particularly in the Nong Pawa community, who are victims of Win Process's alleged dumping of industrial waste, don't really want all this police drama. What they really seek is for law enforcers and responsible state agencies -- such as the Industrial Works Department, the Pollution Control Department and Rayong provincial administration -- to consistently enforce the law and serve in the public's interests, something they have failed to do.

With the help of some NGOs, the affected residents of Nong Pawa had taken their cases to the court of law as their last resort.

In December 2022, the Rayong provincial court ordered Win Process, Mr Opas and another executive, Witchuda Kraipong, to pay 15 affected residents 20 million baht in compensation for damaging the community and areas of land. But four years after the court's verdict, the victims are still waiting for the compensation to be fully paid to them.

Win Process began operating illegally in 2011 but was granted three licences to compress waste paper, recycle industrial waste and operate metal smelting six years afterwards by the Industrial Works Department. However, there has been no equipment to perform such activities on the company's properties. There have only been warehouses that store industrial waste and paper scraps.

Being closed down for several years, the operator left large amounts of toxic waste in warehouses for quite some time until April, when one of Win Process's warehouses storing industrial waste caught fire, which is suspected of being an act of arson.

A stern warning from Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin followed, resulting in the authorities finally becoming active in dealing with the company. Mr Opas was eventually detained and remains held in prison while awaiting trial. How his case evenuates remains to be seen.

What is more worrying is how many more industrial waste recycling facilities in Thailand have been doing the same as Win Process and continue to operate under the radar.

The relevant laws need to be amended to give the authorities teeth to deal with unscrupulous operators of recycling businesses such as Mr Opas.

Recycling of industrial waste is a multi-billion baht business. It's necessary that their operations are properly regulated and monitored to ensure that the environment and our communities are not at risk. The bad lessons learnt with Win Process must not be repeated.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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