Curbs on tobacco head for NCPO

Economy June 06, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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The Public Health Ministry, together with NGOs, recently declared that they would soon propose the draft Tobacco Consumption Control Act to the National Council for Peace and Order for approval.

The proposed TCCA will have negative effects on the income and well-being of over 500,000 retailers and more than 52,000 tobacco farming households nationwide. Many farming households also grow rice and are just now recovering from the hardships created by the rice policy. 
Retailers and farmers recommend that the NCPO reject the TCCA and focus on the more urgent issue of fixing the economy, given how small, mom-and-pop retailers and farmers have suffered during the recent economic downturn.
Somnuek Yimpin, manager of the Burley Tobacco Farmers Association of Sukhothai, who is also a rice farmer, said yesterday that they would like to show their gratitude to the NCPO for accelerating the rice payments to farmers, which had put many rice farmers under extreme pressure during the past months. 
“The problem has now lessened at some level. We hope that the NCPO will not issue any proposed law without carefully studying if the law could hurt farmers’ lives and incomes. Our association is more than happy to meet the NCPO to point out related effects that the Public Health Ministry has failed to inform the NCPO. We truly hope the NCPO will give us a chance.”
Since 2012, tobacco farmers and their associations, the Thai Tobacco Trade Association, the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly and its labour union, the Finance Ministry, tobacco companies and many other groups have voiced concern about this extreme bill. 
These groups opposed the bill during public hearings, submitted letters to the Public Health Ministry and other government agencies and asked authorities to review, amend and cancel the draft. However, the Public Health Ministry has ignored such actions and comments and still moves on to push the draft into its place.
“We, tobacco farmers, have been opposing this bill all along. The Finance Ministry and the Excise Department, which have been taking care of us, also disagree on many points of the TCCA and are concerned about the potential impacts. 
“There is no urgent need for this legislation, as the NCPO still has a lot of other important issues on its agenda. Any laws that potentially impact the people should be carefully considered. This legislation should be put on hold until we have an official House of Representatives and Senate representing the people to review the law,” said Songkran Pakdeejit, president of the Burley Tobacco Farmers Association of Phetchabun.
The Public Health Ministry and health lobbyists are trying to take advantage of the NCPO and push the TCCA during this time of turmoil. This kind of behaviour had occurred during times of political turmoil when they could seek approval of laws without proper debate or objections from impacted groups, so tobacco farmers and retailers nationwide are banding together to ask the NCPO not to rush on passing this regulation. 
“In order to reform the country, we realize that the NCPO is currently reviewing many plans and laws, especially those that require urgency. Tobacco farmers would like to ask the NCPO to think about any impacts new laws will have on grassroots-level people. Tobacco farmers will definitely be affected by the draft TCCA”, said Arun Pothita, village headman from moo 6, Baan Mae Pha Han, On-tai subdistrict of Chiang Mai’s Sunkampang district, and a representative of farmers and curers in the North.