The tragic fire at Ming Dhi Chemical’s factory on 5 July (3am) in Soi Kingkaew, Samut Prakan Province, proves Thailand’s failure past, present, and likely future.
The factory was set up in 1989, producing foam and plastic in an area surrounded by other factories and not much else. Construction of Suvarnabhumi Airport began in January 2002. The airport officially opened in 2006.
For at least 20 years, we knew there was to be an airport and consequently, the growth of the residential area.
The zoning law requires factories to move out. But through the years, Ming Dhi’s factory grew in size. For the factory to move out, the government is legally required to compensate.
But there was never any compensation, which doesn’t mean “some people” weren’t “compensated.”
Local firefighters were quick on the scene. But they lack manpower and proper equipment, and even their uniforms were substandard. There was no command center.
Thousands of residents evacuated. Private foundations rushed to help. The private sector sent foods, masks, and medical supplies. Ordinary citizens set up tents and beds. Line chat groups erupted with people organizing donations.
From his quarantine in La La Land, General Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered artificial rain, then canceled his own order because chemicals would spread into water and soils.
One minister showed up, Thamanat Prompow, to point finger at things for social media photos. Another minister, Warawut Silpa-archa, reasoned that he didn’t show up because he would just get in the way.
Come Monday morning, Nantida Kaewbuasai, chief of the Provincial Administrative Organization, attended a charity event to give away wheelchairs.
The tragedy worsened due to the lack of leadership and preparedness, which will repeat itself time and again as long as Thailand has the same crop of leadership.
The tragedy happened because, regardless of the law or common sense, there’s a chemical factory in a residential area with the airport nearby, and for two decades, no government did anything about it.
The future will be the same because politics is for profits, not for the people.