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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tripartite panel to weigh residents' demands

The Transport Ministry agreed yesterday to set up a tripartite committee to help meet the demands of enraged residents affected by aircraft noise at Suvarnabhumi airport.

The committee will be formed next week and will comprise Airports of Thailand (AoT) officials and residents' representatives, and an independent party to include legal experts and academics, Transport Minister Adm Theera Haocharoen said.

The panel will act as an adviser to the ministry and examine the residents' demands to see if they can be accommodated within the framework of the law.

It will also suggest solutions.

The move is an effort by state agencies to calm down thousands of residents from 32 housing estates to the north and south of the airport.

They have threatened to release a large number of balloons into the air to disrupt air traffic if AoT does not broaden its noise mitigation scheme and compensation payments to include more homes.

''They have promised not to carry out [violent] actions,'' Adm Theera said after meeting with villagers' representatives yesterday.

''I believe solutions will become clearer within nine days, even though all problems will require a longer time to solve.''

The residents staged a mass protest at the airport on Sunday and gave the AoT nine days to meet their demands.

Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um said the AoT agreed to hire outside institutions to re-inspect areas affected by plane noise to ensure fair compensation for the residents.

An earlier inspection by the Pollution Control Department (PCD), endorsed by a cabinet resolution in November last year, suggested paying compensation to 1,800 households suffering from noise higher than 70 decibels and 25,000 households affected by noise levels between 60 and 70 decibels.

However, the cabinet revised its resolution on May 29 this year, reducing the number of households in the first group to 773 and the second group to 18,253 _ drawing fierce opposition from the residents.

A ministry source argued the May 29 resolution was soundly based. The adjustment was needed because the PCD based its inspection on the maximum number of flights, which was not the actual situation.

The AoT also will not pay compensation to people who settled in the area after 2001, when the airport's construction began.

''The AoT board is ready to help affected residents ... but that help would be based on reality,'' said AoT board chairman Saprang Kalayanamitr.

Protest leader Wanchat Manathamsombat said he wanted the tripartite committee to work on following the Nov 21 cabinet resolution.

Mr Wanchat yesterday stood down as protest leader, saying he feared he would not be able to control the residents' anger if their demands were not met.

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