BANGKOK – Today, Thailand joins 102 other countries in ratifying the Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal. The Amendment bans the export of hazardous wastes of all kinds from developed countries (OECD, EU, and Liechtenstein) to developing countries. Thailand's ratification makes it clear that imports of such hazardous waste shall no longer be tolerated while sending a strong and unequivocal message that Thailand will not tolerate any imports of hazardous waste from developed countries
Before the Ban Amendment which was adopted in 1995 and entered into global force in 2019, the Basel Convention (1989) did not prohibit the export of any waste from developed countries to developing countries despite this being the initial impetus for the treaty. Rather, it only required exporting nations to inform the destination countries about the waste being exported and to receive Prior Informed Consent (PIC) before exportation can begin. However, developing nations saw this as inadequate and subject to abuse. They fought with the EU for a full ban that was decided in 1995 at the third meeting of the Basel Convention to enact a full ban on such exports.
Thailand ratified the Basel Convention in 1997 but until now had not ratified the important Ban Amendment, which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries. This means rich, highly industrialized countries can still legally export hazardous wastes to Thailand after receiving government permits. Further, some developed nations have been able to export hazardous waste to Thailand under bilateral agreements. One example is the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement or JTEPA, under which Japan was allowed to export various types of hazardous waste to Thailand. Without the ban amendment being ratified, Thailand has been receiving hazardous waste. In 2022, Thailand imported 3,840,909 kilograms of ash and residue waste, containing arsenic, and other metals or their compounds. Thailand was also importing electronic waste, many of which fall under the Basel Convention's hazardous category. Between January and March of 2023, Thailand imported over 25 million kg of electronic waste. A number of exporters of these types of wastes are OECD nations. Such exports will now be prohibited.
In the recent past, such waste imports, have caused significant contamination of the environment in Thailand. On May 1st, 2023, NGOs EARTH, IPEN, and Arnika Association released a report on the contamination of the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Dechlorane Plus in Thailand's electronic waste workers' blood. Earlier in December 2022, the same group of organizations released a report on the discovery of dioxins in chicken eggs from an area affected by e-waste recycling and an industrial waste dumpsite. In both areas, there are indications that imported waste had been a major source of contamination. It is hoped that now that Thailand has ratified the Ban Amendment, such exports and their impacts will no longer be possible.
The NGOs, Basel Action Network, Arnika Association and EARTH, are likewise calling for Thailand to prohibit the import of Basel's Annex II list (waste for special consideration) which will likewise ban the import of mixed and contaminated plastic wastes, non-hazardous electronic wastes, and household trash. They are also calling for each of these waste import prohibitions to be codified into national law so illegal traffic can be properly prosecuted.
“Thailand's ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment is a significant step towards ending much of the waste export scourge, and we commend the Thai government for taking this vital step," said Punyathorn Jeungsmarn from EARTH. "Now, adding the problematic wastes in annex II to the prohibition is important. Regarding implementation, relevant agencies must also improve their capacities to apprehend and prosecute illegally imported waste, ensure that they are sent back to countries of origin, and compensation and restoration be made to communities affected by imported toxic waste in accordance with environmental justice.”
“All Basel Parties and non-Parties such as the United States must now cease their efforts to flood Thailand, and indeed all of Southeast Asia with toxic and problematic wastes, such as plastic and electronic wastes," said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of Basel Action Network, a global waste trade watchdog organization. “Today Thailand has sent a strong and crystal-clear message – Asia will no longer be a dumping ground for the effluent of the affluent countries.”