Actress and judge take property developers to court over health woes
As housing projects sprout up across Bangkok, more residents living near construction sites have resorted to court action to deal with health and environmental hazards.
Actress and model Nichapa Saesoul, better known as Wae Soul, lodged a lawsuit with the Civil Court on June 10 demanding housing developer Areeya Property Plc pay her 5 million baht in compensation.
She bought a house from Areeya on Kaset-Nawamin Road in Lat Phrao district five years ago. After she moved in, the company built other projects around her home.
She said the projects produced dust and she developed rashes. She had no history of allergies. Doctors thought it was a postnatal ailment.
“I was treated for almost two years [for the rashes] before it turned out the real cause was an allergy to the pollution,” the single mother of one said.
She said medical bills were straining her financially. She was finding jobs in the entertainment business hard to come by and it was difficult to meet the cost of treatment and pay her house mortgage.
Ms Nichapa said she complained to Areeya, which said the projects near her home would be finished in six months. She decided to move out of the house for a while to recover from her rashes.
When she returned, she found the company had started more projects. She then rented out the house and moved to a rented apartment.
She filed a formal complaint against the company with the Lat Phrao district office and contacted every state agency that might be able to help, including City Hall, the Pollution Control Department, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Central Administrative Court.
But Ms Nichapa said she has not heard from them.
Her last resort was the law. The Civil Court has agreed to hear her case asking for Areeya to pay her 5 million baht in damages plus interest.
She has also complained to the Administrative Court about Lat Phrao district’s public works department’s alleged negligence in allowing the dust problem to linger.
“I feel as though I’ve been ostracised because I’m fighting against the company alone. Everyone [in her community] is also affected,” she said.
“Do I not deserve any sympathy? Or do we have to huddle together in our tens and hundreds to have sympathy?”
Areeya Property could not be reached for comment.
Chittakon Phatthanasiri, a Criminal Court judge, is now a plaintiff in a civil case he took against parties involved in The Issara Lat Phrao condo project.
The defendants include leading housing estate businessman Songkran Issara, CIN Estate Co and Sangfah Construction and Engineering Co.
Mr Chittakon claimed he had fallen ill from dust at the site. Construction has been going on since 2007 between Lat Phrao sois 12 and 14. The site is adjacent to his house.
He developed a rash on his body and suffered from inflammation of the eyes. He also came under severe stress that is believed to have contributed to his heart condition.
He filed a complaint with Chatuchak district office and Sutthisan police station. He received no reply.
Last month he sought a Civil Court order for construction to stop from 4.30pm until 8.30am of the next day on weekdays and all day on weekends and holidays.
He also demanded the defendants provide alternative lodging for him during the construction at their expense and pay 4 million baht in damages plus tax.
The court issued an injunction dated May 24 for construction to be stopped from 5pm until midnight every day. It said the dispute was ongoing.
Mr Chittakon’s neighbourhood is comprised of affluent, long-time residences. One homeowner, who asked not to be named, showed cracks on the walls of his house and bags of dust he gathered from a nearby construction site. A piece of wood and some pebbles from the site also landed on his property.
“The taller the building, the more danger there is from falling debris. We have to live with the risks for the entire duration of construction,” he said.
A staff member at The Issara told the Bangkok Post the problems with the nearby homes had been resolved. The company has cleaned the streets and provided dust protection sheets for cars.
CIN Estate Co, the project developer, said it had not ignored the problems. Staff were sent to affected houses for inspection and repairs. Mr Chittakon has also received an apology.
The company is appealing against the injunction to halt construction in the evenings.
It said structural work has been completed and a tower crane has been removed. The remaining work mainly involves cement coating, painting and building roads around the condo.