Powerful politicians ‘threatening’ power plant opponents
The Nation 02 July 2017 | Pratch Rujivanarom
Local people are being threatened by the local powerful politicians in the bid to protest the waste-to-power plant projects across the country, while academics stress that construction of the plant in the right location will prevent conflict in the first place.
Opposition groups against the garbage power plant projects say they have faced threats during their campaigns to protest waste-to-power plants in their locality, because local politicians and powerful persons support and benefit from the projects. They say they fear for the safety of protesters.
Earlier in May, the peaceful rural neighbourhood of Tambon Ta Sane in Phetburi’s Ban Lat District was disrupted by news that a new waste-to-power plant was planned for construction in this area, causing wide-spread concern and uncertainty about the project among the locals.
One of the local people, opposing the project, Chatchavan Sukmueang, said he and others who shared the same stance, faced similar difficulties in expressing their voices openly about the project.
“We cannot do much to address our concerns. The local powerful persons and local politicians side with the project and they use their influence to silence the opposition and let the project progress unchallenged,” Chatchavan said.
“Many people, who showed their view against the waste-to-power plant, were visited by the men of these powerful persons and were told to keep our mouths shut. Even though they did not intimidate us openly, we all knew it was a threat for standing against the local powerful politicians.”
He admitted that this tactic worked and made the local people too afraid to speak up publicly in opposition to the project, even though they were worried about the possible impacts from the waste-to-power plant on their farm and way of life.
The new waste-to-power plant will be situated on the 40 rai of land just behind Wat Khao Tamon Temple in Tambon Ta Sane. The plant is designed to produce 9.9 megawatts of electricity from burning approximately 300 tonnes of household garbage daily. The budget of the project is Bt1.6 billion.
Taweesak Inkwang, the prominent waste-to-energy plant protester at Tambon Chiang Rak Yai in Pathum Thani’s Sam Khok District, said that he faced similar pressure, as have many local people around the site of garbage power plant projects nation wide.
“I used to be openly threatened, sued in the courts for defamation, and alleged to be local mafia for my fight against the proposed waste-to-energy plant project on the source of tap water for half of metropolitan Bangkok, but I still insist on my opposition against this improper project,” Taweesak said.
“It is normal that the local leaders and politicians exercise their power against us, because they are all getting so much profit from the project such as from land purchasing and being involved in the business.”
Taweesak said he was working with people in nation-wide networks to deter the improper waste-to-energy projects. Through that networking, he has learned that the threat from local powerful persons is common everywhere the projects were proposed.
According to Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand, there are currently at least 35 areas where people are protesting waste-to-energy plant projects across the country.
Pracha Koonnathamdee, a lecturer in the Faculty of Economics at Thammasat University, said that because waste-to-energy plants cause conflict in communities nation-wide, project owners should prevent such trouble by seeking the proper location for their project in the first place.
“The good location for a garbage power plant is at the landfill site, as everyone will be happy with the project because the plant will lower the garbage problem of the area for local people and the project owner can get a constant feed of waste for the incinerator,” Pracha advised. “It is a win-win solution for all sides.”
Back in Phetburi, Chatchavan insisted that the surrounding area of Ban Lat District is the worst place for waste-to-energy plant. It is fertile farmland which feeds not only the local people but also sells produce to Bangkok, and is where the famous Phetburi’s palm sugar originates.
However, Super Energy Group Plc, the project owner, said during a May 11 public hearing at Military Circle 15 that this waste-to-energy plant will help tackle the waste problem of the province without emitting pollution to the environment. The economic growth in Phetburi is resulting in garbage of up to 400 tonnes daily.