It's a lean green machine
Some parties keener on courting environmental vote than others
published : 23 Apr 2023 at 05:42
newspaper section: News
writer: Pratch Rujivanarom
Natural resources and the environment is one topic in which parties are competing to win support from voters in the general election next month. Almost every party has announced policy proposals to protect people from environmental harm and promote a clean and sustainable development.
Although active campaigning on environmental policies signifies stronger political will among the parties to improve the environment, academics and environmental experts are concerned that many policies lack protection for civil rights and public participation.
They say many measures also are incapable of dealing with pressing challenges from pollution and the climate crisis.
Wide spectrum of policies
During the past decade, Thailand has faced serious environmental problems such as PM2.5 smog, industrial pollution, ecological degradation, biodiversity loss, and intensifying climate problems.
The country is also struggling to fulfill its international commitments to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and reach a net-zero carbon emissions target by mid-century.
Since the worsening environmental situation is causing direct harm to natural resources and ecosystems and affects the wellbeing and livelihood of many people throughout the country, most parties have come up with solutions to solve these challenges.
An analysis of environmental policies published on the websites of each party shows the progressive Move Forward Party, Pheu Thai Party, and Thai Sang Thai Party have the most prominent policies. They also have more a proactive approach compared to other parties.
Move Forward Party says it recognises climate change to be the most significant issue that humanity has to deal with. So, the party's environmental policies are formed around climate change mitigation by proposing reform in five sectors: agriculture, industry, transport, waste management, and forestry.
Director of the party's Think Forward Center Decharut Sukkumnoed said the party's main approach is legislative reform imposing stricter measures to minimise the environmental impacts of business operations.
"We also place great emphasis on communities' involvement to push forward our environmental policies, as we acknowledge that decentralisation and public participation are crucial for ensuring mitigation of local problems," Mr Decharut said.
Meanwhile, the Pheu Thai Party and Thai Sang Thai Party focus on improving people's quality of life by tackling chronic smog pollution and restructuring the water management system to prevent floods and drought.
"The Pheu Thai Party regards the people's wellbeing to be of utmost importance, so we develop our policies on the environment based on our three ultimate targets, which are assuring that every citizen lives in a safe environment, is healthy, and has a good quality of life," Plodprasop Suraswadi, head of Pheu Thai Party's environmental strategy, said.
"We are taking the air pollution problem from seasonal smog, and natural disasters from flood and droughts seriously to protect the rights of the people."
Plodprasop: 'Party has three targets'
The Chartthaipattana Party, Bhumjaithai Party, Chartpattanakla Party, and Democrat Party also have prominent policies on natural resources and the environment, but unlike the others are focusing more on implementing policies based on the Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model (BCG).
Surapong Promtao, party-list candidate of Chartthaipattana Party, said environmental promotion is both the primary focus and key strength of Chartthaipattana, as it has extensive plans to promote environmental conservation and sustainable development through green innovations.
"Since party leader Varawut Silpa-archa served as Natural Resources and Environment Minister in the second cabinet under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, he has experience in managing national policies on conservation and management of natural resources and environment," Mr Surapong said.
Surapong: Wants all sectors to help
Apart from the introduction of new green innovations such as carbon credits to support the mission to combat climate change, the party also encourages every sector to take part in efforts to protect the environment.
A member of Chartpattanakla Party's policy working group, Pornchai Maranet, said his party believes in the free market, unobstructed competition, and progressive capitalism, so it is focusing on creating economic incentives to stimulate changes and progress to improve the environment.
"As deforestation and intentional wildfires are now a major environmental problem, we are proposing a forest bond policy as a tool to promote reforestation and conservation of natural woodlands," Mr Pornchai said.
Meanwhile, the United Thai Nation Party (UTN) of Gen Prayut and Palang Pracharath Party of Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan showcase environmental policies the least.
The Palang Pracharath Party has one clear policy related to environmental issues, as it promises to continue nationwide development of large-scale water resources management infrastructure to prevent floods and droughts and enhance water storage capacity.
The UTN has even less to say about the environment, as the only policy related to this area is about land reform. The party pledges to settle conflicts over land rights issues, especially with communities in national parks and conservation forestlands.
Commenting on the policies, Asst Prof Sitang Pilailar, a lecturer at the Water Resources Engineering Department at Kasetsart University, said the next government needs to overhaul its strategic plans on environmental protection.
In her view the main reason behind the country's failure to mitigate environmental problems is current governmental policies are either ineffective, inappropriate, or poorly coordinated and implemented to address them.
"The problems with the water management policy are one of the clearest examples of the serious flaws in plans to address environmental issues.
"The authorities are blindly investing large amounts of money on construction of large irrigation projects that are not only causing negative impacts to the environment and local people, but are also inefficient in improving water management.
"The project designs are outdated and cannot keep up with meteorological changes due to global warming," Asst Prof Sitang said.
Sitang: 'Blind spending a worry'
Since the top-down approach on environmental planning is ineffective, she said the next government needs to reform the entire system by encouraging the public sector to get involved in planning and implementation.
The government also needs to reconsider its development strategies, to ensure a balance between economic promotion, especially the expansion of heavy industries and other polluted investments, with the conservation of a clean environment and healthy ecosystems, Penchom Saetang, director of Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (EARTH) said.
"As the result of decades of governmental policies that neglected environmental protection and heavily favoured industrial investments to promote economic growth, people in many parts of Thailand are suffering from hazardous industrial pollution," Ms Penchom said.
"It is well past time for the government to focus attention on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the people by legislating stricter laws and regulations to limit investments in harmful businesses and control pollution emissions from industries."
Tara Buakamsri, Thailand Country Director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said no matter how promising parties' policies look, if they do not have the right to a healthy environment at their heart, they will be nothing more than greenwashing campaigns that further intensify social inequality and create more environmental conflicts.
"Greenpeace believes good environmental policies must be built upon democratic foundations and social justice that encourage freedom of thought and more inclusive public involvement in planning and decision-making," he said.