Thailand's Asbestos Ban? 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Soothsayers and clairvoyants predict the future using tea leaves, crystal balls and tarot cards. It doesn't, however, take a fortune teller to see that Thailand's asbestos industry is doomed. In recent months, international as well as national developments have sealed the fate of this discredited and backward-looking industry. In September 2012, a new Quebec government pulled the plug on plans to develop new asbestos mining operations by an international consortium at the site of the Jeffrey Chrysotile mine. The 2nd biggest investor in this project, after the Quebec Government itself, was Ulan Marketing Co. Ltd., a Thai corporation. With a $14 million stake, Ulan had every reason to resist efforts to ban asbestos in Thailand, Asia's 4th biggest asbestos consumer in 2011.

Even as Ulan's directors and shareholders were coming to grips with the collapse of their expansionist plans, news from the home front was equally bleak.


October 15, 2012: Meeting of TBAN with officials from the Prime Minister's Office.

Following last week's meeting between members of the Thailand Ban Asbestos Network (TBAN) and the Prime Minister's office, on October 26, the Prime Minister's Vice Secretary, Dr Prasit Chaiwirat, called for an asbestos meeting of key government actors, including the Ministry of Industry. Chaiwirat, who said that health is his Government's top priority, believes the government should follow through on its 2011 commitment to ban asbestos.

Last week, TBAN held a press conference in Bangkok during which news of two asbestos deaths was released to the public. The fact that these deaths had been reported in an academic paper entitled: Asbestos-Related Diseases in Thailand and Review: Literature1 underlines the veracity of the statements made. The co-authors of the paper detailed the death of:

  • a 51-year old Thai male, who had worked at an asbestos-cement factory for 23 years, from mesothelioma, four months after being diagnosed;
  • a 76-year old Thai male, who had been employed as a mechanic at the same asbestos-cement factory for 35 years, from asbestosis.

Discussing these cases, the authors point out:

“Pleural mesothelioma was first diagnosed in Thailand in 1954. Since then, there were some sporadic cases but none of the patients had asbestos exposure history. In 2007, a case of MM [malignant mesothelioma] with history of asbestos exposure was first reported.”

Considering that asbestos has been heavily used in Thailand over several decades, the authors warn of impending “public health problems” and urge that measures be taken to stop asbestos use and minimize hazardous exposures. Echoing the academics' call for an asbestos ban, a spokesperson for TBAN confirmed that a series of upcoming events will continue to keep the issue of banning asbestos high up on the political agenda. Putting two and two together, it seems increasingly likely that asbestos will be banned in Thailand in the near future.

October 27, 2012


1 Subhannachart P, Dumavibhat N, Siriruttanapruk S. Asbestos-Related Diseases in Thailand and Review Literature. J Med Assoc Thai 2012; 95 (Suppl. 8): S71-S76.



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