THE WORLD LANDMARK CASE: THE THAI –U.S. CIGARETTE DISPUTE
Dr. Hatai Chitanondh, while being Deputy Permanent Secretary of Public Health took the lead in opposing foreign cigarette import to Thailand. This had evolved into The World Landmark Case when the U.S. utilized The 301 Section of the Trade Bill to refer the matter into consideration of GATT. The battle went on for 1 year and 8 months. Even Thailand was defeated in trade and forced to open its cigarette market, what we gained is victory in health as under GATT’s consideration Thailand could formulate measures for tobacco control.
Thailand has only one Act which relates to cigarette which was the Tobacco Act B.E. 2506 (1963) with one of its provisions stipulated that the government tobacco factory was the sole producer and distributor of cigarettes. Therefore import of foreign cigarettes has been prohibited.
But the transnational tobacco companies had attempted to penetrate The Thai cigarette market.
- 13 March 1989 – Dr. Hatai Chitanondh, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Public Health and secretary of The National Committee for Control of tobacco Use (NCCTU) gave a press interview that foreign tobacco companies were going to penetrate The Thai cigarette market. This might lead to lose of sovereignty in tobacco and a great impairment of health.
- 14 March 1989 – H.E. Pramuan Sphavasu, Finance Minister answered the question asked by the press about free market for foreign cigarettes that he was preparing the list of foreign tobacco companies to consider importing foreign cigarettes as smuggling could not be subdued. Meanwhile he will request for Cabinet’s approval within the coming 2-3 weeks.
- (Remark: The press conducted the interview before the Finance Minister attended the Cabinet meeting while the Minister had not seen news about foreign tobacco in the newspaper that morning)
- 16 March 1989-H.E. Suthat Ngernmuen, Deputy Minister of Public Health, Dr. Hatai Chitanondh, CCTU secretary and Dr. Chuchai Supawong NCCTU assistant secretary gave a press interview opposing foreign cigarette import.
- 20 March 1989
- Labor union of the Thai Tobacco Monopoly opposed foreign cigarette import
- Local tobacco growers joined in the opposition
- Finance Minister said the foreign cigarette import issue is pending and not \yet summarized.
- The Prime Minister said The cigarette issue is not that important
- Dr. Prakit Vateesataokit, secretary – general of The No-Smoking Campaign Program submitting an opposing letter to the Prime Minister and sending enormous size cigarette to Finance Minister with the caption, “To one who open arms embracing death”.
- 24 March 1989 – Finance Permanent Secretary said importing foreign cigarettes is a policy issue.
- 3 April 1989 – Sources from Finance Minister said that the Ministry is preparing for Cabinet proposal submission towards importing foreign cigarettes at 2 million packs per brand within the first three months
- 4 April 1989 – Finance Minister said he will be forwarding the foreign cigarette issue to be considered by The International Economic Relation Policy Board.
- 5 April 1989 – Mr. Krajang Poonpipat, Deputy Director –general of The Excise Department said that the foreign cigarette case is not related to trade influence of the United States.