Move Forward MP Prasertpong Sornnuwat has submitted a letter to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources calling for it to legally intervene in the construction of 4 seawalls in Songkhla Province. The Department said that it could not halt construction right away as no proof of damage was presented, although some of the beach has already been dug up.
A seawall construction is being built at Muang Ngam beach (Source: Facebook/Beach for life)
The 28 May letter urges the DMCR to halt 4 projects, 2 of which are on Muang Ngam beach, one at Maharat beach and the other at Sai Kaeo beach. It claims that the construction will cause further erosion at the edge of the seawalls and dramatically affect the ecology and community livelihoods.
The letter cited Article 17 of the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Promotion Act which authorizes the DMCR Director-General to temporarily stop activities that critically destroy marine and coastal resources.
On the DMCR response, Prasertpong said via telephone that the Director-General, Deputy Director-General and Director in charge would be glad to communicate with the Department of Public Works, which is in charge of the construction.
However, Prasertpong said the DMCR claimed that this could not lead to a halt in construction as enforcement of Article 17 requires proof of environmental destruction. This part is subject to interpretation and might require a court verdict, but the Move Forward MP believes that damage has been done as the beach was dug up and concrete foundations laid.
In case of the Muang Ngam beach, Prasertpong said that construction was not passed by the provincial committee which oversees marine and coastal resources. This must later be proved in court as dereliction of duty. He plans to submit another letter to the Department of Public Works.
“I think the method that an MP or people can try is to submit a letter to the Department of the Public Works for Minister Anupong Paochinda to show courage as a general to be generous to people who are struggling,” said Prasertpong.
The Muang Ngam beach seawall is being constructed along 7.2 km of Muang Ngam beach, a public recreation space, tourist spot and fishing pier. The current phase of the project costs 87 million baht for 710 metres of a projected 2,625 metres.
The project claims to protect the beach from further erosion, which will affect seaside infrastructure. The project is scrutinized by many out of concern for its necessity, environmental impact and legitimacy. Local communities claim that the public hearings were not inclusive.
On 23 May, police in Songkhla Province turned down a request to hold an anti-seawall public gathering at Muang Ngam beach, claiming it would violate the Emergency Decree on Covid-19 control.
Prasertpong disagrees with the police ban. He said that such an action breaches the basic right to freedom of expression in the Thai constitution and universal human rights.
“As the people bear no arms, and if they observe social distancing, you [authorities] cannot prohibit them.” said Prasertpong.
In December 2013, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning) removed seawalls from the category of constructions that require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Previously, any seawall longer than 200 metres was subject to the EIA process. Apisak Tassanee, from the beach conservation group ‘Beach for Life’, claimed that the seawall has a severe environmental impact and should require an EIA.