Map Ta Phut work stops but no clarity on when crisis will be resolved.

By Malini Hariharan

Companies executing projects at Map Ta Phut in Thailand have finally received a notice from the government to stop construction work. The notice comes after the Thai Supreme court’s ruling in early December to suspend 65 projects on environmental concerns.

Mitsubishi Rayon has confirmed it has stopped work at its 90,000 tonnes/year methyl methacrylate (MMA) joint venture project with the Siam Cement Group. A company source says the plant is almost ‘built up’ and they are still hoping for start up to take place as scheduled in the second quarter of 2010. But he admitted that there was no information on when work can restart.

PTT says that construction work at its No6 gas separation plant is nearly over and it is still discussing with government agencies on whether this project can be exempted.

The Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reiterated yesterday that he would like to have new environmental rules by the end of the year. The deputy prime minister has also been assigned to work with the four-party panel, headed by former Thai prime minister Anand Panyarachun, in speeding up the resolution of complex legal issues.

The Bangkok Post reports that the panel has been asked to prepare its recommendations this week and forward them to the cabinet for consideration next week.

But not everyone is convinced in the government’s ability to find a quick solution.

Chainoi Puankosoom, ceo and president of PTT Aromatics and Refining is reported to have expressed concern that “legal clarity will not be seen within the next twelve months due to the lengthy process involved”. He would instead like a special framework that would allow affected companies to proceed with their projects

He said construction of most of the 65 suspended projects was 50-100% complete and also pointed out that suspension of construction work would not ease the pollution problem.

“It is going to take a lot more time to solve than people think,” says a Bangkok-based industry analyst.

But how much more time is still not clear.

Meanwhile, I heard that the head of the four-party panel was confronted with an unpleasant smell on his recent visit to the Map Ta Phut industrial estate. He is now fully sympathetic to the plight of local residents.

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