Illegal landfills hard to suppress, crackdown shows

Illegal landfills hard to suppress, crackdown shows

Over 180 suspects held after clean-up operation

A police officer shows an illegal rubbish pile found inside a forest reserve in Lampang's Mae Tha district. ROYAL THAI POLICE
A police officer shows an illegal rubbish pile found inside a forest reserve in Lampang's Mae Tha district. ROYAL THAI POLICE

The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) has launched an operation to shut down illegal landfills nationwide.

The effort stems from complaints lodged over improper waste disposal resulting in air pollution and adverse environmental impacts.

Residents nearby landfills must endure not only strong odours but are also exposed to health effects including diseases transmitted by insects. The piles of waste can also contaminate water sources.

CIB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej said the operation was launched two weeks ago.

He had assigned Pol Maj Gen Mana Kleebsattabudh, commander of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NED), to head the operation.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said illegal landfills also contribute to global warming as some of the waste is burned.

Thailand took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Glasgow, Scotland, last year. Since then Thailand has underlined the importance of closing illegal landfills nationwide, Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said.

On Feb 3, two operators of illegal landfills -- identified as Ms Salai, 49, and Mr Tawee, 41 -- were caught in Phatthana Chonnabot 3 Road in Bangkok's Lat Krabang district.

Police learned Ms Salai had been operating a landfill for more than two years, while Mr Tawee had been doing the same for seven years.

Ms Salai had been caught twice operating an illegal landfill, while Mr Tawee had been arrested once before Saphan Sung district. However, they carried on committing the same offence.

Ms Salai told police that she collected a dumping fee of 40–300 baht depending on the amount and type of waste. Once a pit is full, the site is covered with soil.

Pol Maj Gen Mana said that during the two-week operation, waste-related offences had been sighted in 23 locations across the capital -- one spot each in Suan Luang, Taling Chan, Sai Mai and Phasi Charoen districts; two spots each in Lat Krabang, Prawet and Nong Khaem districts; three spots each in Min Buri and Klong Sam Wa districts; and five spots in Saphan Sung district.

Police had arrested 185 offenders -- 94 in Bangkok, 10 in the Central region, 15 in the North, 26 in the Northeast, three in the East and 37 in the South, Pol Maj Gen Mana said.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said the transfer or disposal of waste without permission could result in serious charges under Public Health Act 1992. They could also face charges of running a business that adversely affects public health.

Pol Col Visit Plobmuang, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division, said most crimes involve repeat offenders.

He added they often open illegal dump sites in suburban areas, their targets being private land owners who want to refill their land at no cost.

If those refilled sites are sold to a developer, the practice can lead to land subsidence which in turn can damage houses, condominiums and other structures. With that in mind, police will work hard to raid more illegal landfills, he said.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said landfills containing manufacturing and electronic waste as well as chemical residues can have a devastating effect on the environment.

But no matter how many offenders police arrest, it will not solve the problem at the roots.

"The long-term solution is to increase awareness about natural resources and environmental protection. Otherwise, the problems will never end," he said.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop also urged people to report suspicious activity regarding illegal landfills to the NED or via its 1136 hotline or on social media.

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