The Thai military government has agreed to amend the Town Planning Act to deregulate industries in city areas.
Atchaka Sriboonruang, Minister of Industry, on Tuesday, 10 November 2015, revealed that the Cabinet has given the green light to the Ministry to amend the 1975 Town and City Planning Act to be more ‘flexible’ in order to facilitate industry.
The Minister said that the Cabinet has agreed to give the task to the Ministry of Interior, adding that the Interior Ministry will study further policies which could be implemented to give more incentives for investors in accordance with a report on major industries in 34 provinces throughout the country compiled by the Industry Ministry.
Atchaka revealed that the Act will primarily be amended to make ‘land zoning’ in city and residential areas clearer and allow operations of more factories of some industries currently prohibited from city areas under the City and Town Planning Act.
The Industry Minister said that currently business operators in the industrial estate of Map Ta Phut in the eastern province of Rayong want the state to increase the land for industry from 25,000 rai (40 sq km) at present to 35,000 rai (56 sq km).
Although regulations will become more flexible for industries under the new City and Town Planning Act, industries that do not pass their Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) will still be prohibited from city areas, Atchaka added.
According to Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesperson of the Prime Minister's Office, the Industry Ministry will now act as the main public agency to coordinate between the public and private sectors to boost industry.
The PM’s spokesperson added that the Ministry of Industry will make sure that there will be ‘no environmental effects’ under the new industrial regulation framework.
Last week, the Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the junta’s chief economic advisor, said that the Cabinet has approved a plan to cut short the process of conducting EIA on PPP (Public and Private Partnership) mega projects.
The proposal aims to reduce the time for conducting EIAs for mega infrastructure projects from about 22 months currently to only nine months.
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 Finance 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.