EARTH Thailand

Protesters crash hearing on planned deep-sea port

The Nation 16 December 2016 | Pratch Rujivanarom

ABOUT 300 protesters yesterday broke into a public hearing on the “destructive” Songkhla II deep-sea port, claiming the forum was false as only supporters of the project were invited.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the BP Samila Beach Hotel in Songkhla from early morning in a bid to stop the hearing being held by the Marine Department. At 9.30am, they successfully breached the venue and continued to protest inside the meeting room.

Deputy Songkhla Governor Anuchit Trakulmututa said that although many protesters tried to shut down the session, it continued without incident. “The [security] officers are the ones to be applauded. The situation was under control and there was no violent clash,” he said.

The event was reportedly heavily guarded with hundreds of police and military personnel.

The Songkhla II deep-sea port is part of the bigger Satun-Songkhla Landbrige project. The proposed site for the seaport is at Ban Suankong in Tambon Nathap of Chana District, although three other sites were proposed at Ban Khoksak, Ban Thayang, and Ban Pakbang.

Anuchit stressed that the new seaport was essential for the province as it could save a lot of expense transporting goods from the region to elsewhere. He said the first Songkhla deep-sea port was getting close to its maximum capacity and the goods from Southern provinces had to transport to Penang Seaport in Malaysia instead.

Somboon Khamhang, secretary-general of the Non-Government Organisation Committee on Rural Development in the South, said that despite authorities proclaiming that the forum was a success, the meeting result should be considered void.

“The EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] study and public hearing for only Songkhla II deep-sea port is unjust. This project links to the other projects such as Pak Bara deep-sea port and a railroad connection between two seaports to form the big Satun-Songkhla Landbrige project. 

“They have to be studied as a whole in order to understand the impact from this mega-project,” he said.

“We will still carry on our campaign against these destructive projects because they will significantly transform the Southern Region into an industrial zone and devastate the pristine natural resources which foster the agricultural, fisheries and tourism economy of the region.”

He said the first public hearing on the Pak Bara deep-sea port in Satun will be held in Febuary 2017. This is the Andaman seaport for the Satun-Songkhla Landbrige project, and the people of Satun, Songkhla, and other protesters will be at the meeting to oppose the project.

Renu Vejaratpimol, an expert on EIA and former lecturer at Silpakorn University, warned that the separate EIA study and public participation will lessen the overall impact of the project and allow it to pass easier.

“I still cannot see any economic worthiness from this landbrige project and I do not think it is worth trading the rich natural resources for industry and the wealth of some top elite,” Renu said.