Activists fume over plan to use Article 44 for dam

ENVIRONMENTAL groups have strongly opposed a plan by the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to seek invocation of special powers under Article 44 of the post-coup interim charter to commence construction of the controversial Mae Wong dam in Nakhon Sawan province.

In a statement released by the 19 organisations yesterday, they said Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya wanted to implement a project that was against the government's reforestation campaign.

Revoke Article 44, say NGOs

A MASSIVE coalition of 60 civil society groups have urged the government to refrain from exercising special powers under Article 44 of the interim charter, which recently allowed major development projects to bypass proper Environme-ntal Impact Assessments (EIAs).

At yesterday's panel discussion on the issue, non-government organisations (NGOs) also warned that conflicts with affected communities could result in violence.

SRT proposes seven rail projects

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will propose seven dual-track railway routes to the cabinet for its approval this month.

SRT Governor Wutthichart Kalayanamitr yesterday said the seven double-track rail lines will be submitted to the Transport Ministry before being forwarded to the cabinet.

If the submissions are approved, bidding for the seven rail routes will be held.

The SRT planned to propose the seven railway projects after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha exercised Section 44 of the interim charter to fast-track them.

NCPO dead wrong in ignoring the EIA process

LAST WEEK Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), issued an order that will result in cutting lengthy development procedures for some state projects so preparations for construction can be controversially carried out parallel to environmental impact assessments (EIA’s).

That practice contradicts what is stated in the Environmental Promotion and Protection Act.

The preparation for a project before it has received an EIA could proceed with Cabinet endorsement.

NCPO orders ‘will cause more conflict’

EXPERTS have warned that the government will be responsible for more serious rights violations, plus economic disparity - and the next political time-bomb - if it continues its use of "special power".

Key panellists at an academic conference yesterday on communal rights, the environment and city planning, urged the government to stop using power under Article 44 of the interim charter, as they voiced concern that it would cause a new round of political conflict.

The event was arranged by 11 public organisations, plus Rangsit and Thammasat universities.

Junta order well-intentioned, but is it the right way?

Activists see this order as bringing cheer to the business sector, but suffering to people.

The junta's order can be seen as an attempt to boost the economy by investment spending considering the withering exports.

Since Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha took power in 2014, a number of projects that were supposed to have taken off have fallen short of the government's target. One of the main reasons is the long period required for the EIA process, resulting in construction costs and compensation for land expropriation surging. Some projects took as long as eight years to pass the EIA.

Anti-coal groups protest against latest NCPO order

ANTI-COAL groups from around the country are rising up against the National Council for Peace and Order's move to allow power plants to be constructed in defiance of a city's master plan. Last Wednesday, the NCPO used power under Article 44 of the interim constitution to order an exemption to the city plan law for power plants, gas plants, water treatment facilities, garbage incinerators, landfills and recycling plants, which had been restricted to areas zoned for them on the city plan.