EARTH Thailand

Satun seaport opponents tell govt to stay away

Bangkok Post 09 March 2017 | Apinya Wipatayotin

Local representatives opposing the planned construction of Pak Bara deep seaport project in Satun submitted a letter to the government on Wednesday asking that plans to host the first public hearing on the project next Thursday be cancelled.

They claimed the project is not transparent and straightforward as it lacks the voice of opponents, and said many who are recruited to attend the hearing will only be supporters of the project.

The group gathered Wednesday at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Sombun Khemheng, a coordinator of the People's Network for following up Development Plan in Satun, who represented the locals, said people were unhappy with the project as it was clear that authorities are pursuing it to support the government's target on expanding the petrochemical industry in the South.

Mr Sombun said other megaprojects were still in the pipeline to complete the plan, including a land bridge project linking the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, the dual railway project and the planned construction of a coal power plant in Thepa, Songkhla.

He said there is "missing" information that has never been mentioned to the public about the Pak Bara deep seaport project. He did not go into details.

"That's why we want the government to stop the process of public hearings on the project and go back to consider how to re-engineer the EIA/EHIA [environment impact assessment, and environment and health impact assessment reports] and tools to ensure public trust. If the EIA/ EHIA study is reliable, we won't come out to protest against it."

He was speaking at the seminar "Counting Down EIA/EHIA: The Fate of Megaproject in the South" organised by independent advocacy group Enlaw and its alliances.

He said the process of an EIA/EHIA study should be amended by focusing more on public participation, a right to access information and a right to express their voices against the project.

The first round of public hearings on the Pak Bara deep seaport project are to be held in La-Ngu district in Satun province, consistent with an EHIA requirement.

The project has raised locals' awareness of severe environmental impacts, local fishing activities and the tourism industry, which are major sources of income to residents.

Some parts of Mu Ko Phetra National Park in Satun are expected to be reclaimed for the project, raising louder voices against the project.