EARTH Thailand

After 10-year battle, power plant victims win Bt25 million

The Nation 26 February 2015 | Chularat Saengpassa, Patinya

MORE THAN 100 people living near the Mae Moh power plant in Lampang province have finally won a 10-year-long battle against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), with the Supreme Administrative Court awarding them a total of Bt25 million.

However, 15 of the 131 eligible complainants, whose health was adversely affected by the power plant’s emissions of sulphur dioxide, did not live long enough to hear yesterday’s verdict. Their surviving relatives will be compensated on their behalf.

The Supreme Administrative Court yesterday upheld a lower court’s verdict, which came out in 2009 in favour of the affected local residents.

“Because Egat appealed against the 2009 ruling, our battle has dragged on until today,” Maliwan Nakwiroj said in her capacity as chairwoman of the Mae Moh Patients’ Rights Network.

Not all complainants will get an equal amount of recompense, as the compensation is awarded based on how long they lived in the affected areas.

The compensation amount, meanwhile, is subject to annual interest of 7.5 per cent. Operated by Egat, Mae Moh power plant is in tambon Mae Mo, in Lampang’s Mae Mo district. The Supreme Administrative Court found that the plant had failed to control its emission of sulphur dioxide properly between late 1992 and August 1998. After being exposed to such dangerous gas, many locals have developed health problems.

“The highest compensation per person is Bt240,000, and the lowest is Bt20,000,” said Thirasak Cheukhunthod, the lawyer representing the Mae Moh victims.

Some 477 locals lodged complaints with the Central Administrative Court related to the Mae Moh power plant, he said. However, the court said only 131 had solid evidence to prove that their health problems were related to the plant.

Maliwan said her network would try to establish a fund to help health victims of the power plant based on the amount of money the compensation awardees agree to share.

“We are thinking about helping more than 300 complainants who did not receive compensation,” she said.

While Maliwan and Thirasak were reasonably satisfied with the yesterday’s ruling, many felt justice had not yet been delivered. “My dad has died of brain cancer, and he’s entitled to just Bt200,000 compensation,” said Pranee Inpanyo. “The amount can’t even cover what we paid for my dad’s medical treatments during his ailing years.”

She said she was also worried for her children, who were now suffering from respiratory problems. Pranee’s family has left their home town in tambon Mae Mo because the power plant polluted the environment and threatened their health.

Thira Phonwongsri, 83, said the plant had even caused acid rain.