Villagers seek damages over toxic dumpsite

Villagers seek damages over toxic dumpsite
Firefighters use a water-spray jet as they attempt to control the fire at the garbage dump in Tambon Praksa, Samut Prakan province.

THAILAND - The Lawyers Council will assist villagers affected by the Samut Prakan fire in filing civil and administrative lawsuits to demand compensation from the owner of the dump and five state agencies.

At least 500 households have signed a suit against the Praksa Tambon Administration Organisation president, Samut Prakan governor, provincial industry office, provincial natural and environment office, and the Pollution Control Department for neglecting to control the dumpsite and allowing it to operate without a permit.

They will also sue the owner for at least Bt100,000 (S$3900) in damages per person for mental distress and physical injury from the toxic smog generated by the smouldering fire.

Suwit Cheyubon, chairman of the council's environmental division, said his legal team would collect more documents and evidence to lodge a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents this week.

Some 1,900 households have submitted complaints to the Department of Special Investigation.

According to the Public Health Ministry, about 1,200 people living near the dump fire have been treated at hospitals for "pink eyes" and sore throats.

A child aged one year and eight months has recovered from a lung infection and been discharged from hospital.

Dr Namphon Danpipat, deputy provincial public health chief, said people living within 200 metres of the fire must be monitored closely for health impacts from the toxic smog. Smoke near the site was measured at 10 micrograms per cubic metre, which was regarded as a safe level.

Police Colonel Pichai Kriangwattanasiri, director of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's Fire and Rescue Department, said he dispatched 150 firemen, 34 fire engines and two high-pressure water cannon trucks to put out the fire at the garbage dump. It is not known what caused the fire, which broke out on the 150-rai site on March 16. People had to evacuate from nearby homes and seek shelter at the Praksa Tambon shelter.

Firemen have almost put out the blaze and believe the situation will return to normal soon.

Police Colonel Wichit Boonshinwuttikul, superintendent of Bang Pu Police, said he had already asked the dumpsite owner to report for questioning.

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