PRACHIN BURI - Thirty nearby residents and workers were taken to hospital following a sulphuric acid leak at a factory in Si Maha Phot district late on Thursday night.
The incident sparked a protest by over 100 neighbourhood residents, who demanded the immediate closure of the Sunshine Biotech International factory, a Thai-Chinese joint venture, at 304 Industrial Park in tambon Tha Tum.
The acid leak was reported around 11.30pm on Thursday, said Pol Lt Col Thawee Kittiwiriyakul, deputy superintendent at Si Maha Phot police station.
Nearby residents and workers at other factories suffered chest pains, sore eyes, vomiting and respiratory problems as the strong fumes of the sulphuric acid spread over the area.
Rescue workers rushed them to Si Maha Phot Hospital.
Dr Sirikiart Techamanoon, of Si Maha Phot Hospital, said on Friday morning a total of 30 affected people were treated overnight. Six remained at the hospital, while the others were treated and discharged.
One of the victims, Amporn Manlerd, 52, said three members of her family suffered chest pains and sore eyes from the fumes.
The incident prompted over 100 residents to stage a protest in front of the factory, demanding it be closed down.
Senior police, soldiers and local officials rushed to the scene to mediate in talks between the protesting residents and representatives of the factory,
Pol Lt Col Thawee said provincial industrial authorities ordered the factory to temporarily shut down to reduce tensions. Another meeting would be held between local people and the factory on Nov 27 to discuss the problem. The protesters were satisfied with the announcement and dispersed in the early hours of Friday, the deputy superintendent said.
Thai media reported it was the second time a sulphuric acid leak has occurred at this factory.
Chartsak Chansukhon, chief of the provincial industrial office, and senior local officials and military officers, inspected the factory to find out what caused the acid leak. The factory was ordered to fix the problem within three days.
Public health officials were instructed to provide health check ups for all nearby residents on Friday.
Sunshine Biotech International Ltd is a production-oriented import and export company established as a joint venture by China and Thailand. It specialises in production and sale of citric acid and its salt products. It is the biggest citric acid producer in Southeast Asia, according to its website.
Sulphuric acid is used commercially in the precipitation process of producing citric acid.