By Chris Lang (June 2007):
In December 2006, Pulp and Paper International magazine reported that Advance Agro planned to expand its operations in Thailand with a 500,000 tonnes a year pulp mill and a 500,000 tonnes a year paper mill. The company completed a feasibility study in 2006, and has submitted an environmental impact assessment to the Thai authorities. Advance Agro’s managing director, Yothin Dumnernchanvanit told Pulp and Paper International that the plans would only go ahead if Advance Agro believed that there was a market for the paper: “We don’t want to collapse the market by introducing new capacity when demand is low and prices are down,” he said.
Advance Agro claims that its paper is environmentally friendly, but a visit to the company’s plantations in 2003, revealed serious problems for local communities living near the plantations. Advance Agro pumps its wastewater onto its plantations where the filthy, green water sits between rows of eucalyptus trees. Villagers living near Advance Agro’s mill complained of ash deposits on their houses and land. When Advance Agro started establishing its plantations, farmers found their rice fields dried up and they had little choice other than to sell their land to the company. Canadian academic Keith Barney points out in a 2005 report for Forest Trends that, “Advance Agro has experienced its share of financial and socio-environmental controversy. Thai NGOs have organized in opposition to the land displacement resulting from eucalyptus farming in eastern Thailand associated with the mill.”
Advance Agro is owned by the Soon Hua Seng group. In 1990, one hundred employees of Suan Kitti (a subsidiary of Soon Hua Seng) were arrested for illegally logging forest on 1,600 hectares of Forest Reserve land in Chachoengsao in preparation for establishing plantations to feed Advance Agro’s pulp mills. Suan Kitti Reforestation was also charged with illegally logging in a 4,800 hectares area in Prachinburi province.