Gathering more than 30,000 people’s names to file lawsuits with the Administrative Court 8 years ago led to a delay. “Chao Phraya Riverbank Development Project” Also known as “The road along the Chao Phraya River”
Opposition to the project The civil society sector has emerged widely. It is not only suspended by order of the administrative court. But it has also become the new norm of society. that fighting for public benefits It is also a righteous thing that people can do together to protect the community and the environment. Importantly. State development must listen to the voice of the people.
The Active invites you to take lessons from driving this issue forward. through interviews Yotphon Bunsom, founder of Friends of the River group and S. Rattanamanee Phonkla, Community Information Center Foundation As a lawyer who prosecuted the case Ready to look at the future of Chao Phraya and the development of public spaces from the perspective of the public sector.
Picture from Facebook: Friends of the River
The same from last time…
Going back to 2015, the Cabinet (Cabinet) under General Prayut Chan-o-cha approved the “Chao Phraya Riverside Development Project” as proposed by the Ministry of Interior on 12 May 2015, according to the road construction plan along the Chao Phraya River. The distance on both sides is 7 kilometers each, totaling 14 kilometers from Rama VII Bridge to Somdej Phra Pinklao Bridge. To make it a road for traveling by bicycles sightseeing Leisure and recreation Sports and tourism With a budget of 14,006 million baht, the construction period is 18 months (Jan. 2016 – July 2017).
The project was opposed by both Architectural Professional Association River Assembly Network Siam Architects Association under royal patronage Collaborate with professional organizations and a network of 32 organizations that are of the opinion that the project May cause an impact and long-term problems There should be a complete study of the details. Both in terms of impact on the community and the environment. People’s way of life, historical sites, and flood prevention
On 21 November 2018, Urban Planning and Planning Network for Society Foundation for Arts and Culture for the People Twelve interested citizens (plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit against the Cabinet. (Defendant No. 1) Steering Committee for the Chao Phraya Riverbank Development Project (Defendant No. 2) Ministry of Interior (3rd defendant) and Bangkok (Respondent No. 4) to the Central Administrative Court
To request the court to order the revocation of the Chao Phraya River bank development project. (Chao Phraya River Road Project and development along the Chao Phraya River) due to not taking legal steps regarding dissemination of information, organizing public hearings, preparing environmental impact analysis (EIA) reports before project implementation. Carrying out violations of city planning laws and changes in land conditions according to the Land Code
Later on 23 April 2019, the Central Administrative Court ordered temporary protection. By ordering to delay the implementation of the project until there is a verdict. which the Chao Phraya Riverbank Development Project Steering Committee, No. 2, Ministry of Interior, No. 3, Bangkok, No. 4, the defendant in the lawsuit Filed an appeal against the said temporary protection order to the Supreme Administrative Court. The Supreme Administrative Court ordered to uphold the Court of First Instance’s order to delay the project until the case has a verdict.
Until the Central Administrative Court issued an order on February 5, 2020, prohibiting Bangkok from (Defendant No. 4) carries out a development project along the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Only the walkway along the Chao Phraya River is temporarily reserved. Until the court has a judgment or order otherwise and 22 February 2023, the Central Administrative Court has an opinion from the first hearing of the case. Asking the 4 defendants to suspend construction projects for development projects along the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
Before the judgment was scheduled for March 9, 2023, the Central Administrative Court ordered that If the defendant wishes to continue with the project, he or she must follow the following 4 points:
Carry out a listening session According to the regulations of the Office of the Prime Minister regarding the holding of public hearings in 2005, an environmental impact analysis report is prepared. As required by law Even though it is not specified in the project announcement that must be done. But this project has serious environmental impacts. According to the constitution, therefore, EIA must be done, request permission from the New Marine Department, request permission to construct a building from the Director-General of the Fine Arts Department. Because the project implementation will affect historical sites from Facebook: Friends of the River
Movement of the public sector to protect the area along the Chao Phraya River
Yotphon Bunsom, founder of Friends of the River group Said that when the project first came out, as a city person and a person working in design, he was shocked, so he raised his voice and opened a space for society to express their opinions. Ready to present policies to the government about what the people’s actual needs are. The gathering together at that time showed that there were quite a few people who saw the importance of public space. and areas along the Chao Phraya River including designers, urban planners, and people working on urban ecosystems. Chao Phraya Riverside Community A group of people working in the arts and culture field Even civil rights advocates A group came together to campaign together. and caused great awareness in this movement.
“At that time, many people had no idea that there was a project like this happening. But gathering together to communicate Help inspire society to become more aware. and asked the government directly: Why do we do projects like this? Because it’s not just 14 billion baht in the first phase. But if the total project total is worth 30-40 billion, it is a question of whether it is worth it for things that might be lost, such as ecosystems and community way of life. And what will long-term care be like? It became an agenda that allowed space for discussion. Create a good atmosphere for discussing policy issues.”
Yotphon Added that Although at that time educational institutions were hired (King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang) was given to study, but it turned out to be more like a tool. Because before that, they had tried to open a bid for construction and design prices from private companies. But no one is interested in joining. So he ended up at an educational institution for help but was caught by society. The network itself sees that it should create a more accurate process.
“If you look at it clearly, it’s like having a 3-4 lane road going down into the river. If compared to foreign countries, they may develop in areas on the coast instead. It’s not such a large structure. The Chao Phraya is not that spacious either. Various academics clearly point out that it will definitely have an impact. Expediting the schedule to study within a specified period of time Using educational institutions to work under a problem that is wrong. It doesn’t mean that it will be a good result. You have already set the problem to create. I didn’t ask the villagers if they would like it or not. But asking how to use it, so when the question is wrong. No matter who is asked to come up with the results, there is no answer as to how they will have a positive effect on the river.”
The campaign took place in many forms, including organizing exhibitions to provide knowledge to the general public. Visiting communities along the riverbank Take information and disclose it to the public. Published through online media or workshops with students To create a good and diverse offer Floating protest boats in the river has already been done. After making an open letter, no matter what, the government still hasn’t backed down. Therefore, the team discussed that it might be necessary to use the law as a tool for the government to seriously listen to each other. Therefore leading to filing a lawsuit with the Administrative Court. and had the effect of stopping the project
“It makes us see that the campaign And the voice of the people still has meaning. We hunted down the names of people who objected. 30,000-40,000 signatures, which allows the court to see that it really affects all citizens. A lot of the state’s argument might be that people who don’t live along the river have anything to do with it. Is it part of the impact? But everyone says it’s related because if it blocks the waterfront area Both people living along the waterfront and downstream must be affected. And the Chao Phraya River is an important public space for the whole country, so it is a matter for every Thai person. If projects implemented under the flag are not transparent in listening to opinions, other projects will follow suit. We do not want this to be the norm. and create distress for the entire ecosystem and people’s way of life anymore.”
Picture from Facebook: Friends of the River
Fighting against the wall, relying on the grace of the Administrative Court.
S. Rattanamanee Phonkla, Community Information Center Foundation Said that in the early days the network would sue in court. We thought about who would sue. Which we think is not just those who live along the river. But the river belongs to everyone, so everyone has the right to sue. We call it the Bangkok community. The plaintiffs therefore have both plaintiffs, ranging from a group of individuals. River network groups, various foundations, the general public in Bangkok Including villagers who are members of the community to join in the lawsuit. The court also recognizes community in a broader sense. And grouping gives everyone the right to participate in reflecting on problems. After we found the plaintiff, we discussed the issues to sue.
“We found that very little space was opened to promote the project. There is very little information disclosed. There is very little information on the website. Therefore, we raise the issue of providing information that does not comply with the law. There is the issue of EIA, even though we know that a project of this kind does not need to do an EIA according to the regulations of the Ministry of Natural Resources. But if you look at the constitution, it clearly states that the project will have an impact on the environment. However, EIA must be done, so we use this condition. This does not include requesting permission from various agencies such as the Building Control Act. The matter of city planning Creating something that encroaches on the river It is something that we see not being implemented yet. Finally, there is the matter of what to build in the river. use of space which according to the Land Code To change it to another type, a Royal Decree or Royal Decree must be issued. It must be looked at according to the nature of use. This project has not been implemented. And finally, there is the matter of environmental impacts. which we use to prosecute”
S. Rattanamanee Phonkla
S. Rattanamanee added that When we filed a lawsuit While the court is considering it, we are still seeing signs. Efforts to begin construction If it starts to be built then there will be big problems. If you start, you will stop. or canceling will cause more damage. So I asked the court to order a delay or cancellation first. Because it’s better than waiting for the decision to be made, which can take a long time. It’s very fortunate that the court gave protection first and was able to stop it. It is good fortune for the community. and also to the state so that it does not have to suffer more fiscal damage.
“The court ordered that this project is unlawful. But because it is an administrative court Can’t go and cancel the project without giving it a chance to make changes. The court would probably view that if he went to change and follow the law as has been decided. If he does so, he may be reconsidered. But now everything has stopped. Because there has not been any action as the court ordered. Must return to the starting point first. But it’s not easy. Because each condition is not easy, in this case the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration did not appeal. It is considered that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration accepted the judgment. He may follow the plan but it has nothing to do with the river. You can do it on the shore.”
S. Rattanamanee Phonkla
The lessons learned from this project through the judgment can be useful in community-state disputes in other projects. S. Rattanamanee Said that there are several reasons: 1. Every government project must follow the regulations of the Office of the Prime Minister regarding listening to public opinions. There are 2 steps: the listening to opinions step And the second step is to issue a report to let the people know what has been heard. But in the past, almost every project had a public hearing but never saw a report. The court ruled and clearly spelled out the law as a reminder of the importance of this matter. This will become a norm that various agencies must follow, and the community itself, if there is a project that goes into the area, will use this case as an example of struggle.
2. The word EIA or environmental impact report is not just written in the announcement of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment with the type of project that needs to be done only. But if any project is included, it must already be done. We can use the provisions of the Constitution to fight. In the past, there may not have been any court consideration. But this project is very clear. It is another lesson that communities like to accept. We can fight on this issue. Because the Constitution is the highest law.
3. People who have access to areas in various projects have the right to file lawsuits. Perhaps in that area, villagers may be threatened and imprisoned, making them not dare to speak up or criticize. But people outside may not be locals. But people who use the area can file a lawsuit. The same is the case with the breakwater at Chalatat Beach. The court also provided conditions that when it is a public area, everyone has the right to use it. It means that everyone has a stake in the project that they will work on.
Ceasefire, hoping to find an opportunity to build public-state cooperation.
Yotphon Said that if the government were to take up this project and redo it, it would be able to do so. Because it is not a project of Bangkok, but a project of the government. Now there is a new government. We cannot be confident that if the government changes policy, it may change. may be brought up Amend the law Increase the authority of the Marine Department to be able to approve Adjust regulations of the Prime Minister’s Office To facilitate the birth of the project Because people often say that everything can be solved if you want to create a project. Therefore, we think that in order to make society still not trust and send a voice to the government that we have not disappeared yet. We still think that we need to come up with a new problem together.
Over the past 8 years of fighting, we have seen many developments. Both the public sector and the public sector are waking up to this type of project. or other projects that are considered unable to be released We must monitor and ensure that city development projects are a process that everyone can participate in. Awareness here is continually important whether the state sees it or not. Because it is a power that cannot be overlooked. I think the government has become more careful. Because we are serious And the network is serious.
In the past, we gave importance to the problem. As the court points out, process is important. It is something that people demand and oppose because they want the process to be done correctly, to be listened to, and to be explained to the public. We are ready to work with the government to achieve good development. In the past, we have tried to demonstrate that we are good development partners.
“You shouldn’t look at us as just citizens who come to open up a listening space. The standards given by the court give us more confidence that The spirit of the law still stands on the side of the people. and legal rights Not just our group But so do other civil society groups. We are confident that we will create a dialogue with the state that we have principles and have our backs on. It is a fight that we are not just opposed to. But we have an offer. What kind of river development do we want to see? We see what the cultural costs of each area are. which can create additional value I would like to work together in the future. I want the government to see this opportunity as well.”
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