EARTH Thailand

Songkhla group vows to step up protest against power plant

The Nation 26 August 2017 | PRATCH RUJIVANAROM

A GROUP OPPOSING the Thepa coal-fired power plant in Songkhla province vowed to return with a bigger protest in September, as it claimed the project did not respect the Islamic faith of the local people and neglected people’s rights.

Around 20 local people from Songkhla’s Thepa district yesterday continued their peaceful protest in front of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry for the third day. They decided to return home, but promised to return in greater force to make the government drop the Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) of the new 2,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the far South.

The coordinator of the Network of Community Rights and Environment Safeguards for Peace, Direk Hemnakorn, read the statement in front of the ministry saying the protesters had decided to go home because of the government’s indifference towards the people’s suffering. He said they would return with more protesters and new tactics to get the attention of the government.

“The government has already made its stance clear by being indifferent to the suffering of citizens, so there is nothing to be gained from prolonging the protest,” Direk said.

“We will plan our next movement with alliance groups to elevate the protest by September and we will consider every option to make the government listen to us.”

After handing in the petition to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry on Thursday, seeking a meeting with the minister over the demand to cancel the EHIA of the project and set up a neutral committee to review the validity of the EHIA report, the group was upset that it failed to receive a satisfactory response from the authorities.

“The government does not care about our livelihood, our faith, our environment, and our future, and it is our duty as decent Muslims to protect the creation of god from the coal-fired power plant project, which will destroy our mosques and pollute our environment,” Direk said.

“We have already suffered from the insurgency in the Far South. We want peace, freedom, harmony, and respect for our rights. Why is the government giving us this dirty coal-fired power plant? It is totally not the solution for the insurgency and it shows to us that the government does not really care other than the profit from coal.”

According to the group, some 250 houses, three mosques, two cemeteries, one temple, and one Islamic school will have to be relocated to open the way for the coal-fired power plant, which the group considers offensive to the faith of the local people.

Direk urged others, who also suffered from the government’s projects elsewhere, to join forces with them next month.

He said the plan for the next movement was not yet clear, as the group will have to first discuss its strategy.