Thai government to cut short EIAs for mega projects

The cabinet under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, has given the green light to a proposal to shorten the EIA process by half to speed up mega construction projects.

According to the Thai News Agency, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the junta’s chief economic advisor, said on Tuesday, 3 November 2015, that the cabinet has approved a plan to cut short the process of conducting Environmental Assessment Impacts (EIA) on PPP (Public and Private Partnership) mega projects.

The proposal is aimed to reduce the time for conducting EIAs for mega infrastructure projects from about 22 months currently to only nine months.

Somkid said that the plan will increase the speed and efficiency of the process of giving public concessions to private companies.

He added that under the current system the EIA process has to be completed before contracts can be given to private companies, but under the new proposal both steps can proceed at the same time with the participation of all relevant public agencies.

According to Apisak Tantivorawong, the Finance Minister, there are currently seven ‘PPP Fast-Track’ projects, comprising the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) railway line extension, highway projects in western and northeastern Thailand, and waste treatment facilities in central and northeastern provinces.

These projects will be pilot projects where the EIA process will be significantly shortened.

The Minister added that when the EIA process is shortened, the government will no longer have to invoke Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives the military government nearly absolute power, in order to make way for mega project construction.

Recently, the Thai junta invoked Section 44 in NCPO Order No. 17/2015. The order mandates turning large areas in Tak, Mukdahan, Nong Khai, Sa Kaeo and Trat provinces, bordering Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, into Special Economic Zones (SEZs), where industry deregulation and tax cuts are offered to lure investors.

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