Section 44 can be used to bypass environmental regulations: Constitution drafter

The chair of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) has said that there was nothing wrong in the junta using its absolute power under Section 44 to bypass environmental regulations.   

On 24 May 2017, Meechai Ruchuphan, chairman of the junta-appointed CDC, told the media that it is not unconstitutional to use Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to bypass regulations and normal procedures in the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project.

He made clear that the move is not against the constitution because it is for the economic development of the nation as it increases investor confidence.

Meechai’s statement came after Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, announced that the NCPO would invoke its absolute authority under Section 44 to order the National Environment Board to conduct an expedited Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the EEC project.

The EIA process must be complete within one year, said the junta leader.

In January 2016, the junta leader issued NCPO Orders No. 3/2016 and 4/2016, using his authority under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution, which gives him and security officers absolute power to maintain national security.

NCPO Order No. 3/2016 exempts the construction of buildings in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) from the regulatory framework of the 1975 Town Planning Act and other regulations on buildings. The order also takes away from local government the authority to impose regulations on construction in SEZs.    

Similarly, NCPO Order No. 4/2016 exempts all kinds of power plants, water treatment plants, garbage disposal and collection plants, recycling plants, and gas processing plants from regulations under the Town Planning Act.

In late 2015, the cabinet approved a plan to cut short the approval process for PPP (Public-Private Partnership) mega projects by reducing the time for conducting EIAs from about 22 months currently to only nine months.