Emission law fine, but implementation called into question
I have been thinking a lot about whether or not to write about a particular subject today. I have written about this many times in the past, but I have never actually submitted these views for my Autotalk column. This kind of story is damaging to the country's reputation and Thai people consider this as something very shameful.
The Nation is an English-language newspaper which has readers all around the world.
But after the holiday season, I have been thinking that due to the wide social and cultural differences in Thailand, foreigners or Thais who have been living abroad think that in Thai society, most of the population has the same views, or at least think in the same direction as people in developed countries with financial and legal discipline.
These readers often e-mail me questions and sometimes even scold me for my comments and ideas. This is why I have decided to write about this particular topic after the New Year, so that these readers understand the way of thinking in Thailand, which has forced me to express my opinion in order to stop certain movements. Many times I agree with the principles of projects or policies taking shape, but as a Thai citizen I know that when they reach the implementation stage, what will actually happen?
For example, the automobile emission law in principle is very good, especially for the country's environment and its people. But once implemented, it will turn into a problem for the auto industry and has already drawn criticism that it could, among other things, serve as a channel for corruption.
That's because the emission-measuring equipment in Thailand is not capable enough to handle the job. So when it's time to produce approval documents for certain emission levels, the auto-maker has to sponsor a group of more than 10 government servants to visit its home country and witness the measuring of emissions.
The cost shouldered by the auto company includes air fares for dozens of people (business class if they are high-ranking officials), accommodation, food and allowance for company officials who have to accompany government officials in the role of translators. After the emission measurement, the company's employees are also responsible for taking the "tour members" on sightseeing trips. Sometimes, there could also be "extra followers" from Thailand. All this adds up to many millions of baht per trip.
However, government officials may forget or pretend to forget there are many differences between Thailand and the country where the auto-maker's headquarters is based. They include air temperature, humidity and air density, as well as the quality of the fuel used for testing. All this can prevent the results from being 100-per-cent true when considering the environment in Thailand.
The total cost for taking these officials to witness the emission measurement/test is huge. And I used the word witness because they are in no way participating in these tests - they will just watch how the manufacturer achieves the test figures.
With auto companies having to spend millions per trip, it would need to sell at least a thousand vehicles per year in order to spread the cost evenly.
But for importers and distributors who don't have much sales (some less than 100 vehicles per year), they must find a way to get the emission approval document by spending the least amount of money. Otherwise, they must add as much of this cost as possible to the car price. This causes consumers to purchase vehicles that are more expensive than they should be.
This doesn't mean that I disagree with the introduction of the auto emission control law. I still agree that Thailand should have increasingly strict emission regulations as time goes by. But the way the emissions are measured should be brought over from technologically developed countries and adjusted to suit Thai conditions.
An example is a vehicle that has been tested for EURO, SAE, TUV or JIS standards. If the figures are acceptable under Thai regulations, they should be approved automatically so that importers and distributors do not have to spend more money paying for another test and taking Thai government officials on tour.
Meanwhile, there is also an idea to set up a new automotive standard testing facility in Thailand. I will talk about this next week.