EARTH Thailand

Locals dismiss deep sea port hearings as waste of time

Bangkok Post 14 March 2017 | Apinya Wipatayotin

Residents opposing the Pak Bara deep seaport construction project in Satun province will rally on Thursday to stop the first round of public hearings on the project.

Ekkachai Isaratha, coordinator of the People's Network Owning Mineral Resources, said the government must cancel the hearing as it does not allow for genuine public participation.

He said it is a belief among locals that several infrastructure projects in the pipeline, such as the Pak Bara deep seaport construction project, a dual-railway project, stone mines, and a coal-fired power plant in Songkhla province are part of the government's goal to develop a new petrochemical hub in the southern province.

The project has been opposed by locals who see tourism as an industry where the government's resources and attention should be focused, rather than on petrochemicals, he added.

Last Friday, the group rallied against a rock mining activity in Satun province, where concessions have been granted for the exploration of at least three out of eight mountains that will be used in the development of the deep seaport project.

"As locals, we are the people who stand to lose our natural resources. But most government projects don't include our voices," said Mr Ekkachai, adding the group wants to send a message to the government expressing its unhappiness.

Meanwhile, Somboon Khamheng, a coordinator of the People's Network for Natural Resources and Environment Protection, doubted the deep-sea project will be scrapped or postponed. According to the project's timeframe, public hearings need to be completed within eight months, so the government will want to press ahead.