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Supatra seeks netural panel for Yad

Supatra seeks netural panel for Yadana gas pipeline

Pennapa Hongthong

The Nation, December 9, 1997

PM's Office Minister Khunying Supatra Masdit, who is in charge of the
controversial Yadana gas pipeline project, yesterday proposed establishing
a netural committee to settle on a pipeline route acceptable to opposing

Khunying Supatra, who reports directly to Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai,
said yesterday she ordered project owner Petroleum Authority of Thailand
(PTT) and a Kanchanaburi environment conservation group to nominate members
for the committee, which would also comprise representatives from related
agencies, including engineers and military officers.

She added that while the PTT was insisting that the final 50-kilometre
stretch of the route pass through a forest, the opponents were demanding
that the pipeline be build along Baan I Tong-Thong Pha Phum Road.

"Both sides should reveal all the information they have. I think we can
find resolution to the question of the route soon," Supatra said.

Pinan Chotirosseranee, a leader of the opponents, said she agreed with the
idea of establishing a netural committee to settle the dispute.

She said the opponents had named her, along with Thongchai Pansawadi from
Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Engineering, Surapol Duangkhae from
the Wildlife Fund Thailand, Army Chief-of-Staff Gen Charn Boonprasert and
two Kanchanaburi villagers to the committee. The opponents' list was
presented to Supatra yesterday.

After an aerial inspection of the planned site on Sunday, Supatra conceded
that the pipeline would pass through a fertile forest.

"However, I don't have the authority to order the PTT to change the route
or stop construction in the forest areas. And I also can't guarantee that
any negotiations will convince the PTT to re-route the pipeline. My
responsibility is only to report to the prime minister," she said.

Pinan said yesterday that constructing the pipeline along Baan I Tong-Thong
 Pha Phum Road was a solution that would benefit both sides.

"We (the conservationist group) would be protecting the forest while the
PTT would able to transfer the gas to meet consumer demand. On the other
hand, if the PTT insists on the old route, we will lose the most fertile
forest in the country," she said.

Pinan and her colleagues did not oppose the project, but simply believed it
should not affect the environment, she said.

Songkiert Tansamrit, director of the PTT's Public Relationship Department,
said he was unaware of the establishment of any neutral committee. He said
three kilometres of the pipeline had been completed in the forest and that
construction would not be halted without an official order from government.