Friday, June 22, 2012

Put health, safety at top of list, PM told

RAYONGThe state should do more to protect residents against poor safety measures at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate, residents in the area told the prime minister.

The Eastern People’s Network, together with seven citizen coordinating groups, staged a rally
at Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong province before submitting a petition to
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that urges the government to curb industrial
pollution and scrap plans to build new industrial estates. THITI WANNAMONTHA

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra toured the area yesterday.

The residents, led by Suthi Atchasai, head of the Rayong-based Eastern People's Network, handed a 10-point request to the premier as she was inspecting safety projects for workers in the aftermath of two deadly accidents at the estate early last month that killed 12 and hurt hundreds.

Emergency response plans for communities located near the estate should be deployed better, they said.

Residents have accused authorities of rarely conducting evacuation drills in communities near the estate.

Those taking part in safety drills said authorities were too slow to inform residents about accidents.

After an explosion at the Bangkok Synthetics Co plant on May 5, Energy Minister Pongsvas Svasti admitted safety measures were flawed, as residents did not hear warnings sent through the community's loudspeaker that day.

''We'll give the government one week to make improvements,'' Mr Suthi said yesterday, saying his group will rally at Government House if nothing is done.

The premier yesterday talked to authorities about progress since the accidents. She was satisfied with their safety measures.

Authorities will look out for potential problems when they approve construction of new factories.

As for the old ones, she said: ''We have to get things right''.

A demonstration of an emergency drill was also held yesterday.

The heart of effective emergency responses is public participation, Wiraphong Chaiphoem, governor of the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand said.

''People will be informed of emergency cases within one minute,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the government is establishing the Environment Monitor Centre at industrial estates nationwide to better cope with emergency cases.

Residents will be asked to help officials keep an eye on safety matters, said MR Pongsvas, the energy minister.

Ms Yingluck's visit to the Map Ta Phut industrial estate was part of her three-day visit to the eastern provinces.

Today she will visit Laem Chabang deep sea port in Chon Buri's Bang Lamung district, and chair a state-private sector meeting in late afternoon.

Tomorrow, Ms Yingluck will chair a mobile cabinet meeting in Pattaya.