Explicitely iniquitous authorisation
It has been reported that foreigners are driving the Thai condo market and many properties are sold off-plan on the basis of possessing environmental impact assessment (EIA) approval. This all sounds hunky-dory, but what exactly does the statement mean? Actually, not a lot.
The process leading to EIA certification is extremely murky and often downright corrupt. Local residents and other interested parties are generally kept well out of the picture until a challenge becomes unfeasible.
EIA certification is officially granted by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep). Ideally, an EIA should be followed with an audit. This would evaluate EIA performance by comparing actual impacts on the environment after construction with those originally predicted in the pre-construction report. However, common sense does not prevail here. Claiming to be unable to cope with a ballooning number of applications (a property bubble?), Onep washes its hands of all responsibility from the moment an assessment has been ratified, shoving any post-EIA challenges or problems onto the shoulders of local authorities. In turn, the local authorities pass any disputes to the BMA Public Works Department, because this is where the really shady deals seem to be taking place.
The lack of an EIA follow-up system allows the developer carte blanche to commit "architectural anarchy" at will. With Onep out of the way, illegal alterations to the original plans can be easily implemented. At this point the BMA is the responsible body, but initial modifications and deals are apparently only fixed verbally, probably with the help of a suitcase full of cash.
A verbal agreement allows the developer to proceed without implicating anyone in authority, and offers ample time for chicanery-linked problems to be ironed out. If complaints or appeals are made by the public (not common in Thailand) a variety of techniques will be skilfully employed, including loss of courier-delivered mail, evasion of questions, or by simply playing dumb. It is presumed that complainants will eventually give up the fight (as most do), after which the required final documentation can be officially signed and sealed. And then on to the encore, glorious in its shameless virtuosity - collective declarations, issued as and when necessary, that Thai law has been followed to the letter during the whole process. As if anyone would think otherwise!
Thailand's EIA system is a total farce, immensely sleazy, and the term "EIA-approved" is a meaningless joke. The Bangkok landscape is littered with concrete monuments, clear but ugly reminders of how the system really works.
What a way to build a city. Foreign purchasers should beware.