Shinichi Asabe Article Collection

The People of Southeast Asia

Thailand Import of the PollutionApril 1993


Defective IC substrates dumped on the field next to a factory in Banterkam Village

At eight on April 21st, 1993, I spotted the delegate of Siam Environment Club,Professor Suraphon Sudara of Chulalongkorn University, in a crowd at Bangkok Don Muang International Airport. He was leaving for Europe to attend a conference. “As foreign companies including Japanese ones are expanding their business to our country, Minamata disease-like cases are occurring here in Thailand,” he remarked at the international forum ‘Japanese Export of Pollution and Environmental Destruction’ held in Tokyo in March, 1990.

In July, 1992, a Japanese-affiliated company in Malaysia was ordered to shut down its operation by the court for the reason of having done harm to the inhabitants’ health, and Japanese “export of pollution” was criticized. But strangely, there was no such a case in Thailand where more than 800 Japanese companies entered and set up factories as their production bases. I came to Thailand to collect information, but Professor Surapon answered nothing specific such as a place-name to my questions. He said, “I’m sorry I can’t tell you anything, because I don’t have any data at hand.” After he checked in, I still followed him to the VIP waiting room, where some members of the Party of the People, a military supporting party, were waiting for him, drinking Scotch whisky. All I could catch, but very clearly, what Professor Suraphon was saying is “If you don’t feel any sympathy to a dying person, you cannot be a human being. With a split between the North and South, Asia will never develop.”

At that night, I had a talk over a glass with a Thai president (43) of a Japanese-affiliated company. He explained to me about the actual state of Japanese-Thai joint ventures. “The Thai side borrows money indirectly from the Japanese side so that no one can see they are in partnership. There is a joint venture whose actual capital investment ratio from the Japanese side is 90% and that from the Thai side is 10%, for instance.” The investment law provides that 51% of the capital investment should be made by a Thai company and 49% by a foreign company to make the venture Thai-capitalized. If he is right, the Japanese side has the leadership in managing a business including pollution control.

On the morning of the next day, the 22nd, I visited the industrial analysis center located across from the Chao Praya River. One of the managing staff with whom I had an appointment showed me the report submitted to the United Nations Conference on Environmental Development held last June. But, when I asked the name of the polluted place and its cause, he evaded my questions. To my repeated questions he finally said, “I’ll send you a fax in the afternoon. I need to check.” But what came out of a Japanese-made facsimile machine was a copy of an article in the economy newspaper, which made its first appearance in recent year. There was neither sender’s name nor handwritten letters. He must have cautiously avoided being entangled in trouble of political and business worlds.


“Lead Poisoning Broke Out in Elementary School Near Factory” was the headline of an economic newspaper. According to the paper, the blood test showed the blood-lead level in 30 out of 60 pupils were higher than the standard level (22.68μg/100mg) and the blood-lead levels in five of them were over 40μg. On that level a treatment is needed. The paper said, near the school there were two factories Teletech, an electronic parts maker, and Rocket, a battery maker, but the Ministry of Industry denied their relation of cause and effect because the factories had appropriate disposal facilities.

Then, I drove southeast from Bangkok on National Highway 3 to the site, Banterkam Village in Banpurakan county on 23rd. The white buildings of Teletech facing National Highway is just called a factory of “Jeepn (Japan).” I found countless electric substrates dumped messily in a vacant lot on the south side. The letters of NG, a sign of defect, was written on every substrate with a felt-tipped pen. Also, the word “MADE IN JAPAN” and the maker’s name were printed on it in white. However, Teletech was registered as a Chinese-affiliated company. Maybe it is an indirect subcontractor.

Despite summer holiday, supplementary math lessons were given in an elementary school. Ms. Wanner (39), a teacher of the school, said, “Yesterday, there was a smelly chocolate-like rain. It hurt the back of my nose, and I felt suffocated and nausea.” The leaking of the organic chlorine detergent used for cleaning electronic parts is suspected to be its cause, but it has not been proven.

That this area was contaminated by lead was found for the first time in 1992, when four out of 18 teachers in this school complained of their poor health and went to hospital, and then all of their conditions were diagnosed as lead intoxication. At the request of the school that worried about the pupils’ health, the Health Ministry performed the blood test in 60 out of all the 330 pupils of the school last November and in 30 last December. It was this result that the economic newspaper reported. “We requested to examine all the pupils, but it did only a sampling examination. And it didn’t tell anything how to treat or how to prevent.” Wanner looked dissatisfied. Two out of the four teachers had taken vitamin and milk. The pupils whose blood-lead value was critical at the test became thin and their skin turned yellowish.

According to Ms. Wanner, who has taught at that school for 17 years, they never took a health examination, but still there was no health hazard like this before the factories were built in the village. “What on earth do they mean by building a factory next to school?” she said angrily. Teleteck started its operation at the place next to the western side of the school three years ago. What is worse, a Korean-affiliated factory Rocket started its operation one and a half yearsago at the place next to the south side of the school with a temple between them. The school and the families rely on natural water. “I don’t feel like drinking that water, so I buy bottled water to drink. Please don’t tell this to the children,” she said apologetically.

Parpkin (12) was then at school for a supplementary lesson and offered to guide me. His mother was working at a Taiwanese-affiliated bicycle factory in hes village, so no one was at home now, he said. First we went to the drain of Teletech. At the back of the school building, we could see only the roofs of Teletech’s five buildings above the tall wall of 3m. The boy approached to the wall, touching mimosas on the grass softly as if he greeted them. He sometimes had a fit of coughing. “I saw a lot of fish floating in the pond last month. There’s something strange here. I couldn’t go to school for three days because I felt too tired.” Along the wall an irrigation ditch remained just as it had been. This place used to be farmland. He pointed to the grass. Then I heard the faint sound of water running through the grass. On the surface of the water, a shiny film of metal was floating, and the mangroves on the shore withered with only their trunks remaining.

He guided me to the house of his classmate, Vichin, whose blood-lead level was the highest. He lives in a terraced house in front of a tapioca factory. But no body was at home. According to his neighbor, Vichin went to work at a pineapple farm with his father and wouldn’t come back until the new school term began. Parpkin introduced me Charia (13) whose blood-lead was 29μg. She said, “Every time the smell floats in, I always have a headache, and last week I did too.” Her mother works at the same bicycle factory as Parpkin’s mother does. A Japanese-made refrigerator is put conspicuously in the middle of the room. When I asked about her symptoms one by one, she told me that her gums bled even when she didn’t stick them with a toothbrush. She received the second examination last December, but she has not been informed of the result.

Charia’s mother (50) had worked at Teletech as a cleaner for two years until the end of last year. “That factory smelled so badly as to feel headache. So my mom quit,” Charia said. Then I asked her mother personally when she came back from work at night. “The inside of the factory was clean. The reason why I quit was that I was a part-time worker. The present work at the bicycle factory is tough, but I can earn more than before.” Her story was different from her daughter’s.

She and her husband had made their living by braiding thatch out of palm leaves until three years ago. But on the land once thick with palm trees, a Japanese-affiliated company opened a golf course, Royal Lakeside Club by name, this year. By now 140 golf courses were opened and the number of the golf courses is increasing rapidly and will reach 180 next year. She preferred work of making thatch, because she could do it at home without worrying about the retirement age. “I was very surprised to hear that there was lead in my children’s bodies. It’s a sorrow,” said Charia’s mother with a smile contrary to her true feeling. It was a smile peculiar to Asian.

I met some caddies who were on the way home from the golf course. One of them said,”I earn as many as 300 baht (one bath is about \4.5) a day including tips. On Saturday and Sunday, I earn double. I’m satisfied with working there.” According to her, 70% of golfers are Japanese. She added,”Agricultural chemicals are used. Actually, I feel itchy sometimes. But I’m O.K.” In parentheses, the starting pay to a Thai government worker for a collage graduate is about 5,200 baht.

I walked to the south along the bank of the pond where some dead fish had floated last month. The color of the water was reddish brown, different color by plankton. The pond looked like a hot spring in a volcano with no sign of life. As I was approaching the Banpurakon River, which runs in the southmost part of the village, I was surprised. I found prawn farms side by side between the golf course and the river, and I also found fishponds on the bank. In the fishponds, fish similar to sea bass is farmed. About 50 families live on fishing there. A 30-year-old fisherman told me about the present condition. “It’s usual that about 10% of the fish die before marketing. But this year, strangely, that 20% of fish died occurred twice. I lost 200,000 bath.” He accused the Public Corporation of Electric Utility that hot water discharged from the power plant on the one-kilometer upper reach of the river caused the death of fish, and now he is negotiating with the corporation. He doesn’t seem to have enough knowledge of pollution to doubt that waste effluent from the factories or the golf course may affect fish.

A 20-year-old factory girl who had worked at Teletech said,”I like working there. I have a lot of friends, and I get good wages.” She looks carefree. She earns 130 baht a day. She is away on summer holiday, but the factory pays half of usual daily wages. She seems happy. She works at an assembling section of TV. There are four assembly lines in a big well-conditioned room, and all of the workers are young girls.

But the regulations are strict. They are not allowed to enter any other rooms except their own working room. “A couple of months ago, there was a blackout and the air was impregnated with a burnt smell like electric welding. Then I felt dizzy.” She couldn’t stand it, she said.

In Thailand, lead poisoning was reported for the first time in 1952 by a doctor, who pointed out three cases of the limbs impaired were caused by lead poisoning. With the marked increase of foreign investments in the 1980s, the cases of lead poisoning have rapidly increased in number. Doctors found lead poisoning in 182 foundry workers in 1987, and in 305 electric parts factory workers in 1991 (Dr. Benchawan and Dr. Metadirokn).


Faster and more economical Tuk-Tuks with a two-cycle engine run with a loud roar in a city, emitting exhaust gas =in Bangkok

Bangkok called Angel’s Capital is now the worst auto-exhaust-polluted city in Southeast Asia. In 1992 a medical test was performed.

At the intersection of Siam Square in Bangkok, the roar of engines kills voices every time the traffic light turns. “On a windless day, migraine and nausea take me,” said Master Patrol Officer Nimuan (26). Patrol officers work in three shifts a day and they are stationed at a different police box every other month. For months in one year, they have to work in the midst of auto-exhaust. Although the Central Police Station supplies them with masks, it is very uncomfortable to wear a mask in the heat produced by engines as well as by casting back from the asphalt pavement. Nimuan took a mask out of the shelf in the police box and showed it to me. It was nothing but a dust-proof mask. “It’s O.K. now, because I’m young, but at the thought of my future around the age of 40, I feel uneasy,” he murmured.

Japanese cars account for 81% of all the car-sales, so you can see Japanese cars everywhere in Bangkok. I visited an automobile repair factory. A president of the factory Manotai (39) was once a professional racer, who won a championship of the Khorat Rally in a Japanese car. He retired seven years ago and set up this factory. “Although used cars coming from Japan these days have a blow-by gas reductor, dealers sell the cars after removing the reductor and a catalyst in a muffler too, even if their customers are not speed maniacs.” There is no regulation on carbon monoxide, hydrogen monoxide and nitrogen oxide in this country. If a car has no reductor or catalyst, its engine become more powerful by about 20% at the same displacement. Moreover, people can freely remodel their engines if they only notify their engine numbers in case of robbery.

How are new cars used without remodeling? He explained, citing an instance from economy cars, which are popular in Japan and Thailand, “Cars assembled in Thailand carry 3K engines and imported cars carry 2T engines.” The 3K and 2T engines have disappeared in Japan since the Emission Control Act was aid down in 1978. The number of unleaded gasoline cars is gradually increasing in Thailand, but still leaded gasoline is used for three quaters of current engines. Although it is known that exhaust is harmful to health, ‘double standard’ has not been challenged. As to the prices, a 1300cc sedan assembled in Thailand costs about one million eight hundred thousand yen, while imported one from Japan costs more than two million yen-they are not cheap at all.

Sonpiset (33) has been a driver of tricycle taxi called ‘Tuk-Tuk’, a specialty of Bangkok, for 12 years. “Not only I have a backache but also I expectorate pitch-dark phlegm at the end of working day.” The engine of his Tuk-Tuk is a two-cycle engine, which disappeared in Japan more than ten years ago. The two-cycle engines are made in Thailand by a Japanese-affiliated factory. Tuk-Tuks emit a lot of incomplete combustion gas of mixture into the air, but a Tuk-Tuk with a capacity of 550cc can carry four adults and run at a speed of more than 70 kph. Also it is fuel-efficient, giving 18-21㎞/l. Nonetheless, he wants a more powerful and durable one, setting aside the issue of auto-exhaust. “Because I need to increase a turnover of customers to earn more,” he said. Sonpiset pays 250 baht to rent a Tuk-Tuk from 4p.m. to 2a.m. and pays 100 baht for the fuel. He told me that he earned 1,000 baht yesterday, but I don’t think he always earns so much.

Thai National Bank estimated the growth rate of Gross Domestic Product(GDP) was 7.5% in 1992. Thailand has boasted of the highest growth rate in Southeast Asia for the last several years. Borrowing a word from a Japanese traffic safety slogan, I’d like to ask, “Where is Thailand going in such a hurry?”


Dead trees sticking out of an artificial pond of Maemo Thermoelectric Power Plant =Maemo County, Lampang Prefecture.

I heard from a person, who had relation to Mahidol University, that there were many cases caused by soot and smoke given off from Maemo Thermoelectric Power Plant, so I flew to the site on April 26th. After two hour’s drive from Chiang Mai to the southeast, I saw a forest of chimneys standing between mountains. Behind the chimneys, there is a rock mountain with lime stone exposed on its top, which looks like a snowcap, and in front of the chimneys there is a reservoir. There’s also a high two-story house, but it stands deep in recesses of the jungle so that it cannot be seen easily from the roadway.

Maemo Coal Thermoelectric Power Plant has 11 generating units. Their total generating capacity of 2,025 MW is the biggest in Thailand. Unit 1 and 2 with a capacity of 75 MW each started operation in 1978, and then Unit 3 in 1981. Unit 4 and 5 with a capacity of 150 MW were built in 1984; Unit 6 and 7 built in 1985; and Unit 8, 9, 10 and 11 with a capacity of 300 MW were built one after another with the help of Japanese Official Development Aid (ODA) every year except the period from 1989 to 1991. The loan of 23 billion yen that was contracted last September was appropriated to Unit 12, which is now under construction.

“I’m a doctor. Actually, this is not my job, but no one does this,” said Dr. Chinan (33), the director of Maemo Hospital, leafing through the data file kept on from 0ctober of 1990. Although young Thai doctors who are posted to the country usually move to a different place after a 2-year duty service, he has stayed here for more than five years.

At the fifth meeting of Occupational Environmental Medical Society held in Bangkok in February 1993, he made a presentation as in the followings. In Sopart Village located to the south from the plant, 213 cases of sneezing, cough, sore throat, chest pain and difficult breathing broke out on October 3rd, 1993. By November 20th 1,118 people in total including villagers living in four southeast villages received medical treatment, and 34 out of them were hospitalized immediately. In the meantime, 8 cows and 23 buffaloes died, and also crops such as pumpkins, red peppers and sugar cane in the field of 115km2 died. The pulmonary faculties in women at the age of 21-25 were 374l/min and that in men at the age of 26-30 were 480l/min. The pulmonary faculties in patients at any age bracket were down to 70-80% of that in Tai normal people.

The sulfur dioxide per one cubic meter of air in the village posted 2,122μg at 10a.m. on October 20th, 1992. After that, it downed to the level of 300μg, but it reached 1,206μg at 11 a.m. on November 7th. It is said that sulfur oxide contamination in Milan and Shenyang is the worst in the world, but still sulfur oxide in both the cities is the level of 200μg. Although the worst season with unfavorable weather conditions was over, the villagers are not convalescing. If you continuously inhale sulfurous acid gas for more than one year, even if the concentration is as low as 0.015ppm, you may contract cardiovascular disease. The villagers complained that they got tired easily, had difficulty in breathing, or felt something wrong with their sense of balancing themselves, even when there was no sulfuric acid mist.

At first, the Thai Electric Power Public Corporation announced that it was caused by the breakdown of an electric dust collector in Unit 2 and the abnormal weather. But since Unit 2 was smallest, the account was incoherent to this much harm. Dr. Chinan said that the air was indeed apt to stagnate under that weather conditions, but the amount of sulfur oxide was the matter. Sulfur oxide in the air has rapidly increased since 1989, because the generating units of 300 MW, twice as big as the old ones, were built practically every year. He also said, showing a European case of acid rain damage caused by a long-term contamination, there were signs of acid rain here before.

On November 3rd, when the press began to cover this story excitedly, the public corporation announced that it would hasten the investigation of desulfurizers in Unit 8 to 11. In the first place, the public corporation declared by pressure from the World Bank that every new unit would have a desulfurizer from now on. But it turned out that new units, Unit 10 and 11 built after the declaration, didn’t have desulfurizers. And the old units that discharge sulfur oxide of 160 ton a year are exempted.

Passady (50) living in Passat Village related her experiences on October 3rd. “At 6 in the morning, when I was going to the vegetable store, I noticed a foul odor like rotten mushrooms in a jungle hung over the village, and soon I got red spots all over my body and felt itchy unbearably.” She saw the red flowers decolored on the way home. Although she bathed and put on baby powder, she got worse and worse. She was attacked by a severe headache, and tears came into her eyes and she felt a violent pain in the eyes. The pain practically burst her eyeballs. She cooled them with ice but it didn’t work. So she went by her brother’s truck to the hospital that was located 20 km away to the southwest from the village. When they were out of the village, she felt a little better but she lost her sight. She took nine days of hospital treatment, but her eyesight failed and became to have difficulties with everyday affairs.

“Look at them,” she pointed to the trees in her garden. Generally broadleaf trees are considered to be tolerant of acid rain, but the leaves of tamarinds and mangoes were scorched and frizzled. Palm trees were completely withered and decolored. According to the villagers, in the mountainous county, Mehmo, such acid rain or acid mist used to occur between September and December when high atmospheric pressure stays in the upper air, but it has occurred all the year around in season and out of season from five or six years ago. In April when I was staying, it occurred on 22nd, and in March it occurred on 4th and 5th successively and she was suffering from the same symptoms as last year.

Actually, she had worked until the end of 1992 for three years at the building office of Unit 11 as an office worker. There was not a desulfurizer but dust collectors. She often observed that the factory didn’t operate fully in the daytime, but always emitted black smoke after dark. “That unearthly sound reaches at night even to this village far away from there. Every night we are afraid that a mist might come.”

Ms. Passady with a branch of dead palm in her hand complains of the damage caused by sulfuric acid mist =at her garden in Passat Village

Dr. Chinan appealed intently in English. “Development is important, but health cannot be replaced by anything. The problem is that the government doesn’t recognize this issue as being serious. If the public corporation doesn’t install a desulfurizer or stop operation, I’ll not be able to handle this situation. If someone die, there is nothing to be wondered at,” he warned. However, Passady said, “Although doctors don’t admit, four people died of weakening, to my knowledge, because of the power plant’ fault. All of them were still in their forties.” She claimed that there were already some victims.

The public corporation promised on 0ctober 22nd, 1993 to compensate the victims for damage as well as to cut down the generation. Passady was paid 5,000 baht compensation for business suspension and 3,500 baht for the damages on the trees in her garden. A Thai journalist said this was the first case that the Thai government paid compensation and the amount was not so bad as compared with the average income of a farmer. Against this, “This amount doesn’t cover all. I cannot work, and neither can my brother, who drives me to the hospital. The tamarinds in my garden used to fetch 8,000 baht a year,” said Passady emphatically. “After all, we have no alternative but to leave. But no one wants to buy land like this.” She is thinking about move, because a desulfurizer doesn’t seem to be installed before she dies. By the way of parentheses, the total amount of compensation paid to her was 3,700,000 baht (\16,650,000).

The public corporation also declared on that day that it would make an investment of 45 billion yen in installing desulfurrizers on Unit 8 to 11. Five days after, by a curious coincidence, the Japanese Government decided that it would offer a loan of 93 billion yen, the highest in the past, as the 17th credit in yen to Thailand. Since it was the Government that contracted a loan, it should have known that high sulfur brown coal was used in Mehmo Power Plant and what kind of plant would be built. As of April 26th, a half year after the incident, no construction work can be seen in the power plant except the construction of Unit 12.

When I was leaving, Dr. Chinan entrusted me, a Japanese reporter, with his appeal. “I heard that Japan went through tough experiences such as Yokkaichi environmental pollution, and now has the best technology for pollution control in the world. Can it aid in putting filters on the existing generating units before in constructing a new unit?”


At that night I met an executive of Japanese-affiliated factory. “We have the same disposal facilities as in Japan, so public officials or our counterparts visit our factory for information almost every week. But their questions always surprise me. From the content of the questions, I doubt they treat waste effluent properly.” He saw a scene of inspection at another factory where he worked before. The inspector found that the degree of contamination was beyond the standard level, but he let off the factory with an on-the-spot fine. 1,600㎡ of country land in Thailand costs about \1,500,000. The building of a factory with a floor space of 1,600 ㎡ costs about \45,000,000 without equipments. “Taking an adequate measure to prevent pollution will cost more than the factory itself,” he calculated.

On the next day 27th, I went to the North Industrial Estate in Lamphun, where his factory stood. Since companies started to move into the industrial estate in 1990, 51 factories have been operating by now. 25 out of them are Japanese-affiliated. Among of them, the noticeable type of industry is the electronic industry such as computer parts manufacture.

According to the Industrial Estate Agency in Thailand (IEAT) located in the industrial estate, the waste effluent from the factories is first piped to the intensive treatment plant of IEAT, then treated biologically at four stages in four basins, and finally chlorinated. After these treatments, the water is released into the Kuang River that runs along the eastside of the industrial estate.

For your information, “the Amendment of Factory Law in 1982, the Industrial Waste Effluent Regulation Clause 6” prescribes the acceptable limits of itemized heavy metals. It requires that chromium be 0.5㎎ and below; arsenic 0.25㎎ and below; selenium 0.02㎎ and below; lead 0.2㎎ and below; cadmium 0.03㎎ and below. And BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) should be 100㎎ and below even in a specially designated factory. But the brochure of this industrial estate says that if the waste effluent meets the following standards, the factory can release it by paying 5 baht per ton for treatment because the industrial estate is fully equipped with treatment facilities.

The standards are as follows: cyanogens should be 2㎎ and below; mercury 5μgand below in a liter of water. The total amount of heavy metals such as chromium, arsenic, selenium, lead, cadmium should be 1㎎ and below. When BOD is 1,000 ㎎/l and below, the water can be released. An additional fee indexed to the degree of pollution will be charged.

When I approached the bank of a basin, following a broad path that ran straight between the factories, I could smell a foul odor like human waste rather than industrial waste. With the severe heat added to the high BOD, the rotten waste seemed to emit hydrogen sulfide. When I peeped through wire entanglements, I could only see a treatment basin just like a natural cistern. I couldn’t see such a sprinkling filtration tank or an aeration tank as seen in Japan. As I was taking a photo of water hyacinth over the surface, most of which withered, a worker of the treatment plant came out and shoved me out.

In Shibunyun Village across the Kuang River about 50 meters wide, the foul odor do harm to the villagers’ health. “Usually, I can smell it only in the morning and evening, but when it’s rainy I can smell throughout the day. The odor is just as human sewage pouring out from a broken toilet,” said the village’s headman, Somuse. He himself has a pain in the nose and head, has difficulty in breathing, and feels dizzy. In the village with a population of 1,200, about 200 villagers go to hospital regularly. They filed a petition with signatures to the prefectural assembly. The assembly replied that it would take a measure to remove the odor within three months, but Somuse didn’t seem to place his hope on it.

In the river some people were fishing. They are gazing at the surface with a rifle-shaped spear in their hands. Kamon (37), a carpenter, works as a fisherman on the side on a free day. Hemibarbus barbus (a kind of carp), snake-headed mullets, catfish are easily caught. Those fishes are eaten quite often, deep-fried or made into soup. “Before the factories were set up, the water was clear. There was not a strange alga like this.” Every early dawn and every time it rains, waste effluent is always released from the overflow into the downstream where a sluice was built. “They release the pitch-dark water in a swollen river to dilute it,” he said lightly. I saw a film of something like metal and oil floating on the surface and barely saw through black sludge at the bottom. It’s obviously beyond the self-cleaning capacity of the Kuang River.

To invite companies to set up their plants in the industrial estate, IEAT’s brochure says, “Waste effluent of 5,600 ton can be treated a day. The BOD of the water coming out of the final treatment basin is below 20 ppm.” A public health expert, Skucham (39), answered my interview at his house not at the Lamphun branch office of the Health Ministry. He detected lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium of about 0.1 ppm each around the overflow of the treatment plant. The BOD was 50-60 ppm. He has carried on survey step by step since last January. If he cannot analyze the substances, he sends them to Bangkok or Chiang Mai. From the analysis, he calculates that the treatment plant doesn’t have such a treatment capacity.

50 odd factories release about 4,000 ton of waste effluent a day, but the area of four treatment basins is short of 50,000 ㎡. The first basin was deepened to a depth of four meters to increase the capacity, however, the sunshine didn’t reach the bottom and the waste effluent was rotten. IEAT tries to treat the waste effluent biologically, but biological treatment is for an organism not for heavy metals. They need chemical treatment. The industrial estate is separated into two of the east and the west by a principal road that runs from the south to the north. The waste effluent from the east block that doesn’t abut on the river is first stored in a pool on the east side in the daytime, then pumped out to the treatment plant until 9p.m. Finally, around 3a.m. the water effluent, pitchdark rotten water polluted with oxide compounds, runs out from the overflow into the river without any treatment of separation or precipitation as Kamon testified, Skucham explained.

While Skucham carries out fixed-point observation at three points of the river, he also examines fish at the market. 1-2 ppm of DDT in fish is from DDT used to kill malaria mosquitoes in the upper reach of the river, 0.1 ppm of mercury is suspected to come from the treatment plant. The Lamphun Waterworks Bureau stopped drawing water off the Kuang River and draws water from wells. With preliminary that the results of blood test on 10,000 factory workers have not been marshaled, he offered me an overview of it. The average values of 0.01 ppm of lead, mercury, chromium and cadmium were found in nearly 20% of all. He said that researches into their clinical histories remained to be made in the future, but 2-3 % of the subjects were complaining of fatigue.

“The government should be responsible for the people’ health.” He intends to appeal to the public after rounding off his researches. But I heard indirectly from his friend that his boss might shelve the data, and plainclothmen had already visited him at home and harassed him by saying, “If you do that, your life will be in danger.”

“Export of Pollution Criticized (Asahi Paper),” the Environmental Training Center was built by Japanese ODA in the suburb of Bangkok. The center is so popular as to be flooded with 3,000 applications. When Mr. Hiraiwa, the chairman of Japan Federation of Economic Organizations, visited Thailand and talked with Prime Minister Chuan, the prime minister requested the cooperation of Japanese companies in pollution control and Mr. Hiraiwa promised to work with it positively. Setting aside the public matters, do the Japanese companies in the industrial estate swallow the figures written on the brochure? Or do they take mean advantage of loose control of pollution?

The values analyzed by Skucham are not so critical compared with the cases in Japan.However, in this industrial estate, another ten factories will be completed soon and 86 out of 100 lots are already sold, with the treatment plant left untouched.


The victims of environmental pollution are the same people in the lower-income bracket everywhere. Many of them live near a factory or a refuse dump and drink water coming through a lead pipe in a room where the plumbeous paint has worn off. There is no work for them except the work of handling hazardous substances in unhealthy surroundings. They eat fish a lot because it’s cheap. But pollutants easily accumulate in fish.

The rich in Thailand is to the poor in slum what Japan is to Thailand. I remembered what a Thai reporter, a friend of mine, said with a sigh. The highest composition paid when an ordinary person is hit by a car is100,000 baht (about \450,000). That’s a price of “life” which money cannot buy.

The day before I left Thailand I visited Mr. Surichai Wun’gaeo, the head of Social Development Study Center, in the Department of Chulalongkorn University. “I don’t deny economy, but capitalism of today is imperialism. If economy has no boundary, human rights and environment should have no boundary too.” He said in a soft tone, but what he mentioned was severe. He offered his opinion. “This is an individual issue. We should keep in mind that we are all human beings on a common ground even though we differ innationality. We are human beings before being specialists like politicians,entrepreneurs, or scientists.”

In Thailand people suffer from draught or flood, because most of the trees in the forests were cut down to get foreign money. Now they bring down teakwood out of Laos and Myanmar. Both of them are still governed by dictatorship, so that if someone falls a sacrifice in future, the matter will be ended in smoke. Referring to this, Mr. Surichai said, “If the national policy is market economy-oriented, the government cannot put a stop to the destruction of environment and violation of human rights. Now that the Cold War between the East and the West has ended, we need another coordinates completely different from market logic,” he added, “international competition on a GNP basis is nonsense. We might as well compete how to live better under our own conditions. I approve the logic of economy if it is for people to live”. The interview with Mr. Surichai ended up with something like a Zen catechism.

“Only 10,000 baht Fined for Discharging Waste Water for Five Years,” reported the front-page news of Siampost I read in a plane. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries won a lawsuit against a paper mill factory in Khon Kaen that was accused of killing all the fish, but the suit was judged on Fisheries Act enacted 45 years ago. After learning a lesson from the four big pollution-triggered diseases, Japan became a forward nation in environmental pollution control. We should be careful not to act only from regard to ourselves.

(Story & Photo by Shinichi ASABE)

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