Prachin Buri people demand probe into caesium disappearance
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Prachin Buri people demand probe into caesium disappearance

Residents also want continued monitoring for contamination and compensation for any lost farm income

The tube containing caesium-137 was attached to a tank at a steam power plant in Maha Phot district of Prachin Buri before its disappearance. (Photo supplied)
The tube containing caesium-137 was attached to a tank at a steam power plant in Maha Phot district of Prachin Buri before its disappearance. (Photo supplied)

A civil society network in Prachin Buri province has demanded a thorough national-level investigation into the disappearance of a radioactive cylinder that created a public health scare.

They made their demands known on Thursday in a letter submitted to caretaker Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The letter was accepted by Sompas Nilphan, an adviser attached to the office of the permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The letter called on the government to act within seven days to set up a committee comprising experts in the field of radioactive materials, as well as representatives of the public.

Its mandate would be to establish the facts as to how the hazardous caesium-137 went missing from the National Power Plant 5A Co facility in tambon Tha Tum of Si Maha Phot district and how it ended up being found at a metal foundry in Kabin Buri.

The results should then be revealed clearly to the public, it said.

In the long run, it said, the government should continue to monitor the possible effects of caesium-137 contamination on health, the environment and the economy.

If the disappearance of caesium-137 caused any damage, such as local farm produce being rejected by buyers and a loss of revenue in the service and tourism sectors, the company that caused the problem should be legally held responsible, the letter said.

Chalermchai Sri-on, the caretaker agriculture minister, on Wednesday offered assurances that produce from Prachin Buri is 100% safe for consumption.

The letter called for the government to take further measures to reduce possible effects on the sales of agricultural products, such as by issuing a letter to certify they are free of radioactive contamination.

The group also plans to submit a letter to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, calling for a governance and ethical examination of the company of origin of the caesium-137 that went missing.

The caesium-137 cylinder went missing from the power plant in the 304 Industrial Park on Feb 23, but a complaint was not lodged until March 10.

After days of frantic searching, authorities found red dust believed to be from the remains of a caesium-137 tube at the steel plant, where the cylinder containing the substance had been melted down.

“The incident has caused the most serious impacts on the health and livelihood of people in Prachin Buri, and it may affect public confidence in the country’s handling of radioactive materials. We’re hoping the prime minister takes swift action,” said the letter.

Dr Supaporn Pitiporn, secretary-general of Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital foundation, said no contamination was detected at the hospital and its herb plantations in Muang district.

However, she said the incident had caused widespread fear and urged authorities concerned to take prompt action to restore confidence and assist those affected by the incident.

Meanwhile, Peerasak Paoprasert, a lecturer in the science and technology faculty of Thammasat University, said the government should provide a mobile laboratory for testing and measuring for radiation to assure consumers of food safety.

Prachin Buri is known for producing fruit, and as the harvest season for durian and mangosteen is approaching, the government can boost consumer confidence by testing and certifying food products, he added.

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