EARTH Thailand

Anti-coal group issues deadline to halt EHIA

Bangkok Post 24 February 2017 | Nattaya Chetchotiros & Wassana Nanuam

'Major protest on the way' if government fails to act

Authorities have until Monday to withdraw the environmental and health impact assessment studies for the controversial Krabi power plant project or brace for a major protest, a group opposing the project warns.

Prasitthichai Nunual, key coordinator of Save the Andaman from Coal network, said the group was waiting to see whether authorities would comply with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's directions on the fate of the environmental health impact assessment (EHIA) and environmental impact assessment (EIA) processes.

The processes were suspended due to the ongoing dispute over the proposed use of coal to fuel the power plant.

The group demanded the processes be withdrawn and everything be restarted from the beginning.

"We're still waiting for clarity from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand [Egat]," he said.

As a matter of procedure, Egat must write to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning to remove the studies.

The group has contacted the office which said the studies have not been withdrawn.

"If the studies are not dropped [by Monday] it would only mean the prime minister's instruction is untruthful and amounts to a charade and a deception," Mr Prasitthichai said.

If that was the case, Mr Prasitthichai said he could would be forced to conclude the deception was planned all along by the relevant parties.

He said should the government fail to honour its word, the group would return to Bangkok with a bigger protest than took place on Saturday.

On Saturday, five leading opponents of the coal-fired power plant project, including Mr Prasitthichai, were detained at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok for leading the protest.

They were freed later that day with no charges laid.

The release followed negotiations between the government led by First Army Region chief Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong and the protest leaders, who later agreed to disband the protest, saying the prime minister had promised to commission new EIA and EHIA studies.

The National Energy Policy Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, had earlier given the nod to the construction of the 800-megawatt plant to be sited in Nua Khlong district.

However, Gen Prayut insisted Thursday there is no difference between reviewing the EIA and the EHIA processes or going back to square one.

"What's the issue here? What's with the debate over proceeding with the [unfinished] assessments or starting everything all over?" Gen Prayut said.

"The point is the assessments will be carried out."