Environmentalists slam draft charter
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Environmentalists slam draft charter

Groups decry lack of community rights

Residents of Songkhla province's Thepha district even brought some of their children along on a Valentine's Day protest against plans for a coal-fired power plant in their backyard. (Post Today photo)
Residents of Songkhla province's Thepha district even brought some of their children along on a Valentine's Day protest against plans for a coal-fired power plant in their backyard. (Post Today photo)

Environmental activists are calling for revisions to the draft charter, saying it will undermine community rights by not sufficiently protecting and managing natural resources.

The call came Wednesday during a panel held by the Thai Journalists Association.

The panel raised recent concerns over missing community rights in the draft, which shifts the onus to the state to ensure they are protected.

In the 2007 constitution, which was revoked by the coup-makers in 2014, communities had their rights to protect and manage natural resources enshrined, while the state had to preserve community rights and natural resources simultaneously.

"If the draft comes into effect, people will only be governed by the state," said Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, coordinator for the Community Resource Centre.

"It will become the duty of the state to decide whether they should get community rights. The rights of public participation and access to information will also disappear."

The people's right to freedom is guaranteed in the Meechai Ruchupan draft, she said, but an additional part says the rights must not jeopardise state security.

"What is the definition of state security?'' she asked, as the government had prioritised state security in many development projects including coal-fired power plants.

She cited the 2,200-megawatt plant in Songkhla's Thepha district, which the government argued was an energy security project, qualifying as a state security matter.

Direk Hemnakhon, a representative of the network of Thepha-Pattani people against coal, said community rights in the 2007 constitution opened a channel for local communities to participate in development decisions on coal fired-power plants.

Prior to the release of the Meechai draft, the National Council for Peace and Order's chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha issued orders under section 44 to revoke implementation of the city planning law for power plant projects and special economic zones.

The seminar was also told the orders are likely to remain until after the draft constitution comes into effect unless a new law is passed to revoke the orders.

Thepha district has been declared a green zone, said Mr Direk. But revoking the city planning law and undermining community rights will make it impossible for residents to protect their homes.

Supaporn Malailoy, manager of Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants, criticised the inappropriate use of section 44 against community rights. As of last year, waste-to-energy plants no longer require an Environmental Impact Assessment, she added.

Meanwhile, representatives of kamnan and villager headmen across Thailand handed a letter to the Constitution Drafting Committee to convey their views against the draft.

They said the draft charter fails to spell out clearly the role for central, regional and local governments, which could allow the central government to interfere.

The move prompted Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda to comment the gathering may be against the law, saying they should express their opinions through other channels.

Meanwhile, WeMove, a rights advocate group, had to cancel a meeting to gather public opinion on the draft in Amnat Charoen province last week, after the governor said they lacked permission. Angkhana Neelaphaijit, a National Human Rights Commissioner (NHRC), said the governor's order violated people's rights and freedom of expression.

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