EARTH Thailand

Warning to govt over ‘pro-coal hearings’

The Nation 27 March 2017 | Chularat Saengpassa

One-sided events will spur conflict in south if local voices not heard’, opponents say

THE SAVE Andaman from Coal Network has demanded that |authorities do not use today’s public forums to legitimise construction of coal-fired power plants in the South.

The network issued a statement yesterday amid concerns that the forums – which will take place simultaneously in Songkhla, Krabi and Surat Thani – may be dominated by a single point of view.

“We disagree with how the forums will be staged as they look set to supply just one side of the information to the audience,” the statement said.

Prasitchai Nu-nuan, a leader of the network, said the forums apparently would be mostly dedicated to advocacy of the coal-fired plants.

“In the morning, the Energy Ministry, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand [Egat] and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will take the stage. They are keen to support setting up more coal-fired power plants,” Prasitchai said.

The afternoon time slots will be shared among people supporting and opposing the power plants, he said, adding that at least 70 per cent of the forum’s presentations would be in favour of power-plant construction.

“Representatives from the government agencies will try to communicate |to provincial governors, district chiefs and kamnans in the South that the region is going to be subject to blackouts if new coal-fired power plants are not constructed,” |he said.

A committee appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is responsible for organising three public forums in the South today reportedly to promote public understanding on the South’s energy situation.

The move, however, is widely seen as efforts to counter local residents’ opposition against the plans to build new plants in the South.

“I don’t have any hope in the forums. But I will join a forum because I will be given five to 10 minutes to air my views,” Chana Hospital’s director Dr Supat Hasuwannakit said yesterday. The hospital director has long fought against a plan to build another coal-fired power plant in Songkhla’s Thepha district.

He said he suspected that the forums were being held to help the government and Egat garner support for their plans after efforts hit a dead end in the face of local residents’ staunch opposition.

Assoc Prof Dr Somporn Chuai-aree, a lecturer at the Prince of Songkla University, said although the South’s power demand was higher than supply, the difference was manageable so there was no need to build new coal-fired plants.

“The difference between demand and supply is just 300 megawatts. But the two coal-fired power plants planned will have the capacity of 2,800MW,” he said.

Prasart Meetam, an academic specialising in energy, said authorities should have started with small-group discussions first if they were sincere about listening to people’s opinions.

“Let’s debate the pros and cons in detail before you go to such big forums,” he said.

The Save Andaman from Coal Network said in its statement |yesterday that the government |had better promote renewable |energy.

Prasitchai said conflicts in the South would be aggravated if the authorities did not listen to local people and environmentalists.

“Any move to arrange the up-coming forums in a way that endorses the planned coal-fired power plants will only sow seeds of |conflicts,” he said.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart, who chairs the NCPO-appointed committee, has said opinions gathered at the forum would be forwarded to the NCPO.

Supat said his worst fear was that the NCPO would use the findings from the public forums as reasons to approve the construction of new power plants by invoking the all-powerful Article 44 of the interim constitution.


Forums on energy dilemma in Surat, Krabi, Songkhla

   - Surat Thani forum

      Venue: Diamond Plaza Hotel

      Up to 960 participants from Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces

   - Krabi forum

     Venue: Maritime Park and Spa Resort 

     Up to 980 participants from Phang Nga, Krabi, Phuket and Trang provinces

   - Songkhla forum

     Venue: Prince of Songkhla University 

     Up to 1,060 participants form Phatthalung, Songkhla, Satun, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces