The facility in question is a 1,500-square-metre “pig part processing centre” planned to be built on a 40-rai site Baan Yid in Moo 3, Mai Khao.
The facility is to be operated by Thai agrifood giant Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF), which maintains that the facility will not be a slaughterhouse, rather than a pork meat processing centre.
Although local residents made no claims that the legal due process had not been followed for CPF being granted permission to build the plant, they complained that they were not even informed that an application to build the processing centre had been filed.
Worse, many said that they only became aware that the plant was to be built after a notice was posted at the site on June 8.
The residents yesterday said they objected to the plant as they did not want their neighbourhood to become a home to factories and that Mai Khao was an “environmentally clean” area, posing the question of what will happen to waste from the plant.
They also argued that the area of Mai Khao was a prime natural tourist attraction.
One local resident, a 50-year-old who was born and raised in the nearby village Baan Dan, told The Phuket News’ Thai-language sister newspaper Khao Phuket that the plant should not be approved solely for environmental reasons.
“There are concerns about hygiene, sewage, dust, odour, sewage and the effect on the local ecosystem that requires natural living. There should be no factories in the area,” he said.
“Mai Khao is a green area. There should not be any factories, especially pork factories. The villagers are certain that the plant will have an impact on the lives of the people living in the area, whether it is the smell, noise or even the wastewater from keeping the factory clean,” he added.
Another concern is the effect the plant will have with Sirinath National Park nearby.
“This area is the last green area of Phuket. It should be preserved, and as green area it can also be developed as a community attraction in the future,” said the villager.
Another resident added, “We know that the factory area is only a small part of the land, but how can we be sure that if the company is successful [with this one particular plant] that it will not expand the factory later? And if one factory is allowed, then other business owners can do it as well. What will our lives and the future for our children be like?”
Chao Ruangsawat, CPF’s Assistant Managing Director - Southern District 3 for pork products and also a Vice Chairman of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, was surprised by the village protest on Tuesday.
“We are in the process of applying for a permit to operate a factory here. The plant will meet industry standards. The relevant agencies will explain all this to the villagers at a meeting on Thursday (June 28),” he said.
"I guarantee that this plant will not create problems for the community. If we create problems for the community, then our employees will not be able to work here,” Mr Chao added.
"The factory will be a sealed area with its own controlled environment in accordance with food safety regulations. No smell or sound will come out. If we do not adhere to these standards, we will not be able to produce safe food,” he insisted.
Mr Chao explained that the company has a pig farm in Krabi, from which pigs will be taken to municipal slaughterhouses in Phang Nga province for “processing” before all the pork parts will be transported at -4ºC to the factory in Phuket.
“All the parts, we sell. Not even bones are leftover. There will not be any [pork] parts left,” he said.
“And any water used in the plant is treated by an on-site treatment process for use in the plant. Even the water from the cleaning will be treated before being used to water plants within the 40-rai site [of the factory],” Mr Chao added.
“We have more than 40 rai of land, of which about 1,500 square meters will be used for construction. We also have plenty of water. It will not leave a negative impact on the environment,” he assured.
However, several villagers told reporters that they did not trust the information that the company had provided to the Phuket Provincial Industry Office, the industrial permit issuing authority for the province.
Mr Chao stressed that the company is in compliance with all laws, including informing local villagers of the plan to build the plant since Nov 4 last year.
At that time, the company informed local people that CPF would no longer operate the 40-rai site as a pig-rearing farm, which it had done since 1991, to a pig slaughterhouse, and the people understood and agreed, Mr Chao said.
‘The company then had concerns about the trouble this may cause for the surrounding communities, and so we change our plan to this [processing] factory, which will have less affect on the communities,” he added.
“We held a meeting to inform the community a year ago at the Sala Prachakom in Tambon Mai Khao, where we explained the plan for people to understand about what will happen with the land and the construction of the factory, but some local people didn’t attend the meeting and still have some doubts for the company to explain,” he said.
Mr Chao asserted that the village leaders who attended the meeting last year did not pass the news on to local residents.
Regardless he said yesterday that another meeting will be held at the community meeting hall in Moo 3, Mai Khao, on tomorrow (June 28) to explain the project fully to local residents.