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Eastern Economic Corridor, Thailand


Description:

Some large infrastructure projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor are opposed by local communities, while a number have high costs and may not be able to proceed at the desired pace, researchers at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI)  warned in October 2017. (6).            

In June 2016, the Thai government, then led by a military junta that had come to power after a coup d'état in May 2014, approved the Eastern Economic Corridor Development project (EEC), aimed at further developing the provinces of Chon Buri, Rayong, and Chachoengsao, in the eastern part of the country. Industrial development in the region started three decades ago with the Eastern Seaboard Development Programme and some of the most important industrial areas in the country, mainly focused on the petrochemical sector and the automotive and electronics industries, are located in these 3 provinces. The new project aims at modernizing these industries and also at expanding the industrial areas in that region in order to foster the development of new sectors. Thus, according to the government's plan, the Eastern Economic Corridor Development project will promote 10 target industries ranging from robotics and aviation, to wellness tourism or biotechnology. The project is part of the Thailand 4.0 strategy that seeks to modernize the country in order to help it become a developed country. To help develop these industries, the government has also planned several big infrastructure projects, mainly the expansion of the Laem Chabang port, the expansion of U-Tapao airport, a high-speed connection between Bangkok and Rayong, double track railways to connect cities with ports and the development of the deep-sea port at Map Ta Phut. The plan also includes some urban development to build so-called smart cities, where digital technology would be integrated with the life of citizens. Nevertheless, activists say that the government is proceeding with the project without proper public consultations and that the Environmental and Health Impact Assessments are not comprehensive enough [1] because the government has approved specific laws to ease the processes. In May 2017, Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, invoked the controversial Article 44 to speed up the approval of the EEC. The Thai Government has also linked the project to China's One Belt One Road initiative [2].  Some academics have also raised concerns about the privileges that will be given to companies and that might lead to land grabbing in the area [3].  

There have already been problems in the region related to health issues due to the hazardous substances released by the petrochemical factories in the Map Ta Phut industrial state, double track railways to connect the cities with the ports as well as the development of the deep-sea ports at Map Ta Phut and Laem Chabang. The plan also includes some urban development to build the so-called smart cities, supposedly one in each province. 

Activists say that the government is proceeding with the project without proper public consultations or Environmental and Health Impact Assessments [4]. In May 2017, the Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, invoked the controversial Article 44 to speed up the approval of the EEC. The article 44 is a constitutional provision that allows the military to pass any measure “for the sake of the reforms in any field” overriding the normal legislative process. In 2016, the government also approved several orders that allow the government to assigned projects to companies before the EIA process is completed.  

Some academics have also raised concerns about the privileges that will be given to companies and that might lead to land grabbing in the area. Some others also think that the new industries can aggravate the health issues already suffered in the area due to the hazardous substances released by the petrochemical factories, mainly in the Map Ta Phut industrial estate.

Some of the groups opposing the project are the Eastern People's Network and the Special Economic Zone Watch Network, among others.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Eastern Economic Corridor, Thailand
Country:Thailand
State or province:Chachoengsao, Chonburi and Rayong Provinces
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Pesticides
Manufactured Products

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

According to the government, the GDP of this area represents 20 percent of the country’s total GDP

The EEC project will focus on two types of industries:

1) the First S-Curve industries, or sectors in which Thailand already has a consolidated industry and that the government wants to modernize. The 5 targeted industries are next-generation automotive, smart electronics, affluent medical and wellness tourism, agriculture and biotechnology, and food for the future; and

2) the New S-Curve or new sectors that the government wants to target: robotics, aviation and logistics, biofuels and biochemicals, digital, and medical hub.

Some of the budgets planned by the government are [7]:

U-Tapao international airport, 200,000 million baht ($5.7 Bill USD)

Map Ta Phut port, 10,150 million baht ($0.3 Bill USD)

Laem Chabang port, 88,000 million baht ($2.5 Bill USD)

New Cities / Hospitals, 400,000 million baht ($11.5 Bill USD),

Tourism, 200,000 million baht ($5.7 Bill USD),

Industry, 500,000 million baht ($14 Bill USD),

Motorway, 35,300 million baht ($1 Bill USD),

Dual-track railway 64,300 million baht ($1.8 Bill USD)

High-speed train, 158,000 million baht ($4.5 Bill USD)

From the private sector, the country’s largest petrochemical company, PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC.BK) announced a $985 million olefins plant in the EEC in January 2018. Top industrial estate developer, Amata Corporation Pcl (AMATA.BK) increased its sales target last year in the EEC, anticipating more investors. Amata also partnered with Swedish Saab AB (SAABb.ST) to study the development of an aerospace city. The industrial east is already home to foreign auto manufacturers such as Toyota (7203.T), Honda (7267.T) and Ford (F.N), that gave Thailand the moniker, “Detroit of the East”, and also houses petrochemical and electronic companies. (5).

Project area:1,300,000
Level of Investment:43,000,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:28/06/2016
Company names or state enterprises:PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC.BK) from Thailand
Toyota Tsusho Corporation (Toyota) from Japan
Amata Corporation Pcl (AMATA.BK) from Thailand
Ford Motor Company from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Board of Investment, Ministry of Industry, National Council for Peace and Order, Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Eastern People's Network

Special Economic Zone Watch Network

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project is going ahead and proceeding quickly. The government has opened bidding processes for several of the infrastructure projects and is looking for investors.

Sources and Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[4] Environmental fears as EEC plans rushed, The Nation, February 26, 2018
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30339654

[1] Environmental fears as EEC plans rushed. The Nation. February 26, 2018
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30339654

[2] Thailand’s EEC to Be Linked with China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative. The Government's Public Relations Department. May 15, 2017
http://thailand.prd.go.th/ewt_news.php?nid=5236&filename=index

[3] Academic fears concession will lead to land grab in Eastern Economic Corridor. The Nation. May 02, 2017
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30313941

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(5) Reuters, 8 Febr. 2018, Thailand approves law for $45 billion Eastern Economic Corridor
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-investment/thailand-approves-law-for-45-billion-eastern-economic-corridor-idUSKBN1FS24B

(6) Govt faces more EEC challenges than was thought, forum hears. Economy October 11, 2017. By WICHIT CHAITRONG. THE NATION
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/Economy/30329004

Other documents

https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/EEC-Thailand.jpg

Other comments:This is the government's optimistic view: "Chachoengsao, Chonburi and Rayong Provinces have been designated for the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a pilot project for the economic development of Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard. Over the past 30 years, these three provinces have been developed to support the fast growing industries. It was the “eras of industrial revolution”. In 1987, Map Ta Phut industrial estate was established and it was the beginning of the development of Thai heavy industry, such as petrochemical, auto and electronics industries. These eras are also called Thailand 3.0. Today, Thailand is ready to move forward to the era of Thailand 4.0. The EEC area covers over 13,000 Km2. The government has launched measures to support and accelerate the economic growth in the EEC, for instance, measures to develop public utilities, transportation systems, logistics, human resources, and investor’s facilitation in the form of One-Stop Service Center. In the future, the EEC will grow into a modern metropolitan, a hub of trade and investment, a center for regional transportation and logistics, a significant source for human resources, a tourist attraction and most importantly, the most modern Gateway to Asia". http://thaiembdc.org/eastern-economic-corridor-eec/

Meta information

Contributor:Laura Villadiego, Carro de Combate ([email protected])
Last update18/04/2018

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