Thailand's Asbestos Status Quo: 2013
The ban asbestos controversy continues to rage in Thailand. Despite a government commitment to prohibit the import, use and sale of asbestos and asbestos products which was made in 2011, no legislation has yet been enacted to implement this decision.1 During the last week of 2012, civil society representatives from the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network participated in a ministerial meeting at which Ministry of Industry spokesmen expressed opposition to the ban, alleging that asbestos-free roofing tiles are unaffordable for the vast majority of Thai citizens. The price differential has been greatly exaggerated according to an article in the Bangkok Post which states that safer products are only 2-5% more espensive.2 According to Thai sources, the construction of a small townhouse with asbestos-free products costs an extra $130. Considering the health advantages and the future cost savings, the expenditure of this money is very cost effective.
One farsighted Thai company, Siam Fiber Cement (SFC), embraced non-asbestos technology in 2007 when it converted all its production lines. Since then, business has been good with predictions of a 10% growth in revenue next year. According to Managing Director Phaskorn Buranawit the fact that the company has not yet broken even on the 3 billion baht investment in new technology is of no concern. SCG's conviction has always been to be responsible to society. The goods we produce should not be harmful to human health or the environment," he told a journalist from the Bangkok Post.
Since the formation of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network, civil society support for an asbestos ban has grown exponentially. Online resources, published material, public demonstrations and calls for action have made the asbestos debate a mainstream topic of discussion in Thailand and placed the subject firmly on the country's political agenda. A declaration adopted last year (2012) calling for an asbestos-free Thailand stated:
Human beings have the right to work and to live in a healthy environment. The tragic repercussions of the widespread epidemic of asbestos-related disease must be prevented as a fundamental human right 3
These sentiments were echoed by comments made during a high-profile international conference held in Bangkok on November 19 & 20, 2012 at which Thai ban asbestos campaigners joined their counterparts from many other countries to highlight the imminent threat posed by the continuing use of asbestos.4 It does not seem unduly optimistic to hope that legislative action will be taken this year to outlaw asbestos use in Thailand.
January 8, 2013
1 Kazan-Allen L. Progress on Thailand asbestos ban. April 26, 2011.
2 New homes drive tile growth. December 21, 2012.
4 Kazan-Allen L. Report from the Asbestos Frontline. November 30, 2012.