EARTH Thailand

Thepha protesters to fight on after 'biased' eco study

Bangkok Post 30 January 2018 | Anchalee Kongrut

Coal-fired power plant protesters from Songkhla are planning to renew their efforts in Bangkok in the lead-up to the government's final decision on the matter.

"We decided to come back to Bangkok. Staying in Songkhla is tantamount to sitting and waiting for the government to give the green light to construction of the power plant," Madtayom Chaitem, a villager from a hamlet of fisherman in Thepha district, told media Monday.

Mr Madtayom is one among 14 residents who travelled from Songkhla to Bangkok Monday in order to present a petition letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The letter urges the government to drop the project once and for all, and also asks for the withdrawal of charges against 17 protesting villagers who were arrested for allegedly instigating unrest in Songkhla during the mobile cabinet on Nov 17.

So far, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has already had an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the 2,200 megawatt power plant approved by experts from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep). Now, the National Environmental Board will make a final decision as to whether the project can go ahead.

Flashback, November 2017: Police attacked protesters on a peaceful march against planned coal-fired plants, and arrested some on charges of violent demonstrations and attacking police. (Photo FB/Banjong Nasae)

Mr Madtayom said villagers in Songkhla will protest until the project is dropped, adding that the EIA was heavily influenced by misinformation provided by the developer. Mr Madtayom said that the prime minister must now listen to both sides of the story, especially arguments put forward by the residents.

"Of course the EIA was approved, the plant developer painted a picture of the ecology in Thepha as already being in a poor state with the fishing industry in a terminal decline. But the reality on the ground is opposite," said Mr Madtayom.

He said the 14 residents will remain in Bangkok in order to prevent the construction of a plant they believe will spell doom for the ecology of the area. They just hope the prime minister will look past what they perceive to be a juggernaut of propaganda from the developer.

In related development, local villagers protesting against another coal-fired power plant to be built in Krabi province will hold a rally in Bangkok next month, according to Prasitchai Nunuan, the leading protester against the 800 megawatt project.

The renewed protest against the Krabi power project has come after Egat, at a public hearing on Saturday, pledged to conduct a fresh EIA after the initial one was rejected by the government.