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Small fish’ consumers join forces to fight for their rights
Published on Apr 25, 2005
About 1,000 frustrated consumers turned out in force yesterday at an event held to address their grievances .
Each of them came with one or more complaints ranging from alleged medical malpractice to being sold defective cars and substandard houses. The event, dubbed as a meeting of the Consumer Council, was held at the small auditorium of Thammasat University.
“ My son is blind due to malpractice ,” factory worker Pimpa Pimprachote said while carrying her three-year-old in her arms.
She said she had gone to various authorities to seek help, but to no avail. She had also contacted the Law Society of Thailand for assistance, but ended up with a tower of paperwork that she did not understand.
Pimpa said her struggle for justice had already cost her Bt150,000.
“Had the government helped me in the first place, I would not have lost that amount of money,” she said.
A disappointed car buyer, Dee-ake Maneechote, said he had yet to receive assistance despite having lodged a complaint with authorities eight years ago.
“Why does the government act so fast on issues such as SIM-card control then?” he said.
Rattana Sajjathep was duped into buying a townhouse on public land. She has fought for more than 10 years to defend her rights to the house after the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration ordered it demolished.
Her case has received widespread attention, and several authorities are now looking into it and promising help.
The event, held by the Foundation for Consumers and other consumer groups, also gathered several groups committed to helping the exploited.
For example, the Network of Medical Malpractice Victims , Network of Disappointed House Buyers and Network of Disappointed Car Buyers were there to receive complaints.
The event organisers also encouraged frustrated consumers to write down their complaints on pieces of paper, which were folded into small fish shapes and attached to a large fish model made of wire. The fish model will soon be sent to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Many shy consumers waited outside the auditorium and asked other people to bring their unsigned complaints to the event.
“We have been like small fishes eaten by the big black fish, which is representative of unfair trade. From now on we will gather as a large school so the big fish can’t eat us up,” the event’s master of ceremonies, Nattaya Waewvirakup, said.
Saree Ongsomwang, the manager of the Foundation for Consumers, said the event’s organisers were also pushing for the establishment of a watchdog agency for consumers.
“We want an independent organisation that is specifically tasked with the protection of consumers’ rights,” she said.
The 1997 Constitution prescribed the establishment of an independent organisation for consumers, but has yet to be founded.
Senator Damrong Puttan said it was the first time he saw consumers turning out in such great numbers.
“I think this is very important. If we stick together, share information and keep in touch, we will be powerful some day,” he said.
Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin and Democrat Party deputy leader Jurin Laksanavisit also showed up at the event yesterday.
Saree said she would meet Deputy Prime Minister Pinij Charusombat on Friday to address problems facing consumers and also to propose solutions.