Clean air advocates, led by Thailand Clean Air Network, or Thailand Can, have renewed their campaign this week calling on public members to support their draft clean air act so that it can get an endorsement from the Prime Minister so as to be able to enter legislative proceedings along with other clean air drafts prepared by other organisations and agencies
As shown on the group’s online campaign, https://thailandcan.org, as of today (Nov 18) up to 59,517 people have signed up for the campaign. The group wishes to get 100,000 signatures to support the campaign, 10 times what is needed to get a civil-backed draft act to enter the legislative proceedings by the Parliament.
Early this week, the group, led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kanongnij Sribuaiam, Thailand Can’s Co-founder and a law lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Law, submitted their petition to the new PM, Srettha Thavisin, calling on him to endorse their draft act.
The draft act of the group was drafted over a year ago and has overwhelmingly won over public support for the legislative proceedings with signatures beyond 10,000. Named as the Integrated Management of Clean Air For Health B.E…, however, it was considered as a finance bill under the Act to Submit Petition for Introducing the Law B.E. 2564, which states that “In cases where the proposed bill under section 11 is a financial bill by the provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, this draft bill shall be sent to the Prime Minister for consideration and approval.”
The group said the Office of the House of Representatives submitted the group’s draft act for consideration to the previous PM, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, for over a year but it has never got endorsed until the new election took place and a new House or Representatives a new Cabinet were formed as a result.
According to the group’s monitoring, from 2000 until last year, various groups had submitted up to five different draft bills; two draft bills by the Thai Chamber and by the Bhumjaithai Party, which were rejected by the former PM, the other two by the Palang Pracharat Party and Phue Thai Party, which were dismissed following the election, and the group’s version, which has been pending for the PM’s endorsement.
At present, under the new government administration, the network has also acknowledged that the new drafts, at least five of them aside from the group’s, are being pushed forward before the Parliament; four from Phue Thai, Bhumjaithai, Democrat, and Move Forward Parties, and the last one is from the Strategic Transformation Office (STO).
“The Thai state under the current government administration (through the Strategic Transformation Office) and through the various political parties all see the need for the passage of a clean air legislation to improve the air quality for Thailand.
“However, the governments have failed or refused to place any importance on the draft legislation submitted by the general public, especially the civil-backed Integrated Management of Clean Air For Health B.E…, which has never been endorsed by the Thai Prime Minister. This has been the case since the previous government administration until the current government administration under Prime Minister Sretta Thavisin.
“The failure to endorse this draft legislation has been prolonged for over a year. On the other hand, the other draft legislations submitted by the state agencies or by the various political parties have all been swiftly processed in preparation for consideration through the legislative process,” remarked Thailand Can in its released statement.
The group therefore called on PM Srettha to “urgently endorse” their draft act.
“The environmental policies by PM Srettha and Phue Thai Party include support for clean air legislation for Thailand. To this end, Thailand Can strongly hopes that the draft act will not be dismissed and that you will endorse it to be considered by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“This would place this draft legislation on an equal footing with the other draft clean air legislation submitted. By doing so, this would bring the greatest benefit to the Thai people by ensuring that their collective right to breathe clean air will be protected,” said the group in their closing.
The Integrated Management of Clean Air For Health B.E…
Thailand Can explain the reasons why the group of prominent environmentalists and lawyers have come together to work on this draft act.
According to Thailand Can, Thai people both in Bangkok and other regions have been suffering from air pollution, specifically fine particulate matter 2.5, or PM2.5 haze, and this has been an ongoing and extensive problem in the country. In many parts of the country, it has become more acute with many Thais have had to suffer from breathing air laced with elevated toxins for an extended period, and at levels that exceed the recommended levels set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
This has been the cause of illness and acute fatalities linked to respiratory, heart and cerebrovascular disease. The pollution has also been linked to chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes and in particular, led to devastating impacts on vulnerable groups, which include children, pregnant women, the elderly, the sick and those whose work requires them to be outdoors.
Thailand Can, or Thailand Clean Air Network, formed by a group of academic volunteers from a multidisciplinary background and social activists, has learned from their studies that responsible government agencies are unable to effectively manage this problem.
There are no management systems in place to address this issue in a fully integrated manner, and as such, state agencies are continuously stuck in a vicious cycle, fixated in addressing only the repercussions of the problem, the group noted.
The key responsible ministry, for instance, remains consistently in a firefighting mode, being unable to focus on sustainable solutions to resolve air pollution, which in itself, is fundamentally a manifestation of a complex structural problem. Therefore, the root cause of the air pollution is never addressed, the group pointed out.
Thailand Can, alongside affected citizens, see the glaring need for legislation reform that would ensure the management of clean air is aligned with recommended standards set by the WHO and the United Nations. By doing so, this would ensure that every citizen’s right to health and longevity will be protected.
The group said their draft clean air act presents distinct qualities from other draft acts. First, it is an innovative legislation that elevates the concept from controlling air pollution to the management of clean air, thus introducing a paradigm shift to encompass concepts which are broader and much more in-depth in scope than what exists in current Thai legislation.
Second, it is a reform legislation that deals with the underlying structural issue. Specifically, this legislation addresses the problem of responsible entities that currently work in silos which have led to ineffective implementation of laws. This would halt the vicious cycle whereby air pollution is addressed only at the tail-end and thus the problem recurs annually every year, the group noted.
Third, it is a draft act that will bring about full integration among the responsible state agencies. This draft act addresses the problem of responsible entities that currently work in silos and are segregated by the pollution source (industry, vehicle, forest fires, agriculture burning, and transboundary haze), rather than being organized in an integrated manner to combine environmental and public health issues.
Fourth, this draft act creates an equitable balance between a top-down approach with and a bottom-up approach, between the central administration and provincial administration of the government and with civil society at large and local communities.
Fifth, the draft act emphasizes the provision of economic incentives that provide opportunities to incentivise polluters to self-adjust their current operations. This is made possible through the provision of various environmental law constructs such as the Clean Air Fund, haze management fees, and the formulation and assignment of the right to emit toxic haze, etc.
This, the group further noted, would help ease the process of incentivizing economic actors to adapt production practices that are much more environmentally friendly. In turn, this will help lead to the adoption of a green economy at a macro level. The Thai government at the same time will also benefit from additional fiscal revenue sources. Additionally, victims will be supported as they seek damages from the impact of air pollution on their health and this is particularly relevant for the vulnerable groups.
Sixth, this draft act manages transboundary haze by employing the polluter-pay principle that places the responsibility on polluters whose activities across the border cause pollutant emissions that have adverse impacts on the health of people in Thailand. This is in line with international law as well as domestic legislation issued by member states in ASEAN in handling transboundary haze, which are enacted without adversely impacting upon the relationship amongst ASEAN member states.
Last but not least, it encompasses principles that are accepted internationally and have received strong support for the innovative and creative nature of this draft legislation. Dr. David R. Boyd, who is the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment had sent a video clip, in which he urged the Thai Government to consider endorsing and enacting this draft clean air act, the group noted.
“Dr. Boyd complimented this draft act for its “reformative and innovative” approach and also stated that it would address the air pollution problem in Thailand, particularly PM2.5, which is a leading cause of premature death according to the World Health Organization.
“Endorsement of the draft act by the Thailand Clean Air Network would be highly beneficial to the Thai government on many fronts,” reasoned the group, adding these range from earning the respect of the Thai constituency for prioritizing legislative reform in the country, Thai citizens’ good health and equality, to Thailand’s competitiveness at a global stage and a positive image for Thailand in the eyes of the international community.
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