6 June 2024

The government has recently issued a new ministerial regulation, requiring all mega projects to undergo a strategic environmental assessment (SEA), on top of the existing environmental impact assessment (EIA) and health impact assessment (HIA), to avoid friction developing between the state or private investors and the people.

Under a PM Office ministerial regulation, a 13-member SEA committee will be set up, comprising permanent secretaries from the finance, agriculture, natural resources and environment, energy, interior, public health, industry and social development and human security ministries, with the prime minister as the chair.

The main tasks of the committee are to set out policies and guidelines for strategic environmental assessments and the projects that require them and to support and promote the development of SEAs.

According to Danucha Pichayanan, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council, SEAs were introduced in Thailand about two decades ago, but have not been fully implemented.

The prolonged protests by people in Chana district, against the Chana industrial estate project as the model of future industrial development, have been cited as an example of a project that causes conflict between the local people and the state due to the lack of an SEA.

Danucha said that the main principle behind the SEA concept is for all stakeholders to be involved in the assessment of projects to be implemented, so that the people who will be affected by such projects will see all the relevant information and determine whether the locations are suitable.

EIAs and HIAs are the next steps required for development projects, he said, adding that SEAs will cover all industrial, agricultural, energy and public health development, town planning and natural resources management mega projects, as well as special economic zones.