Thai junta slashes EIA procedures on state projects

The Thai junta enacted a new order to cut short the process to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment on mega project constructions.    
 
On Tuesday, 8 March 2016, the public website of the Royal Gazette published the latest order of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Order 9/2016, to cut short the process of conducting Environmental Impact Assessments on mega project constructions.    
 
The title of the NCPO’s Order 9/2016 reads ‘Additional Laws on Promotion and Protection of the Quality of Nation’s Environment.’
 
The order was authorised on Monday by junta leader and Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who invoked Section 44 of the Interim Constitution which gives the regime absolute power, to enact the new order to go into effect immediately.
 
The order reasons that it is crucial to speed up the process for public projects to proceed for social and economic reform.
 
The order amends sections of Article 47 which pertain to the 1992 Promotion and Protection of the Quality of Nation’s Environment Act.
 
Notably, the new order makes it possible for state agencies to fast track public projects with private subcontractors related to transportation, water management, public health, and prevention of public dangers. The order allows state projects to be proposed to the cabinet before a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is completed.
 
Surachai Throngngam, Secretary General of EnLawThai Foundation, concluded that, with the order, state agencies are able to rush through the process of open public bids to find subcontractors on mega state projects. Only after the EIA is approved that the contract could be signed. 
 
However, he pointed out that, under the order, subcontractors cannot sign official agreements with state agencies to proceed with state projects prior to the completion of the EIA.
 
Surachai told Prachatai that the amendment of the environmental protection act under Article 47with the NCPO’s Order 9/2016 is correlated to the 2013 Private and Public Partnership Act given it quickens the process to forge partnerships between the government and the private sector on state projects.  
 
The plan to cut short the EIA process was initiated in mid 2015 when the cabinet wanted to reduce the process from about 22 months currently to only nine months. The cabinet reasoned that the plan would increase the speed and efficiency of the process of giving public concessions to private companies.