Thai government must put people over profit after warehouse fire

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The recent fire at Win Process’s abandoned warehouses in Rayong should serve as a reminder and warning to authorities. 

Residents near the Rayong warehouses had been voicing concerns for over a decade about the warehouse, their protests culminating in a lawsuit that saw the facilities abandoned but not cleared of hazardous waste. The indifference to these warnings nearly resulted in a catastrophe when the warehouses, filled with poorly documented chemical waste, caught fire. Similar negligence led to an environmental disaster when floods last year caused some of these chemicals to leak. 

This pattern of negligence is alarmingly reminiscent of other industrial disasters across the globe. The explosion in Beirut’s port in 2020, caused by improperly stored ammonium nitrate, and the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in India, where a leak of methyl isocyanate gas killed thousands, are both catastrophic examples of what can happen when safety is sidelined for profit. These tragedies were not just industrial accidents but the result of systemic failings that prioritize economic gains over human lives and environmental welfare.

The recurring motif in these disasters is the blatant disregard for rigorous safety standards and the failure to heed the warnings of impending doom. Often, these oversights are compounded by corruption and a lack of accountability, with ‘tea money’ changing hands while the risks to public safety escalate. In Thailand, the connection between the Rayong and Ayutthaya fires, both properties owned by the same individual, raises suspicions that these might have been deliberate acts to obscure other wrongdoings. There is a murky overlap of corporate and governmental responsibilities where accountability is often diluted.

Move Forward Party MP Chutiphong Pipoppinyo’s call for a better tracking system for dangerous substances in Thailand is a step in the right direction. However, it requires a robust commitment from all levels of government to overhaul how industrial risks are managed and to ensure that safety regulations are not just on paper but enforced with vigilance and transparency.

Thailand, and indeed countries around the world, must take these international catastrophes as stern warnings. It is imperative that they implement stringent regulations, ensure thorough oversight, and foster a culture of safety that can override the lure of financial gain. The cost of neglect and corruption is too high, measured in human lives and irreversible environmental damage.


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