EARTH Thailand

Kayin’s chief minister fails to sway locals on power plant

Myanmar Times 27 October 2017 | Naw Betty Han  

Local people and civil societies have told Kayin State’s chief minister that they oppose a plan to build a coal-fired power plant in Hpa-an township of the state.

Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint, who met with local people to discuss the issue on Tuesday, told them to focus less on the power plant, which is essential for the state’s economy, and more on the state’s drug problem.

The Karen people should accept the power plant if they want to develop their township. It may bring more jobs and foreign investment, which are essential for the state’s economy. They should weigh the advantages and disadvantages and go ahead with the plan if it will benefit Kayin, she told The Myanmar Times.

‘’This plan will go ahead even if the locals don’t like it, because it is for all of them, and they’ll come to know that later, but I’ll try to make them understand what they’ll get in the future,” she said.

Kayin’s villages and townships near the border with Thailand have long had drug problems. Local people should try to solve the problem and realise the advantages that the power plant could have for their standard of living, even if it does slightly affect the environment, she said.

“If they can be patient a little bit about the power plant, they will get a better future’’ she said.

Toyo Thai Power Myanmar Co. Ltd, would invest US$3 billion (K4.05 trillion) over 30 years in building the coal-fired power plant in Wutt Kyi village, Hpa-an township. It will have an electricity-generating capacity of 1280 megawatts. 

The chief minister came to Wutt Kyi village to meet with local people about the plan on October 15, but a majority of locals opposed the power plant in their region. She meet the residents for the second time on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

“Coal is very dangerous for the environment. We stay in our region peacefully and can’t allow others to destroy our peaceful environment,’’ said U Saw Eh Doe Soe, a resident of Wutt Kyi.

The locals will organise a demonstration if the state government does not care what local people want, he added.

After her visit, the local civil society held a public hearing about the plan on Wednesday and signed a petition to stop the power plant. A total of 3985 people from 19 villages near the project site signed the petition and sent it to the state government.

The public debate over coal-fired power generation in Myanmar has heated up in recent years, as increasingly vocal environmental groups face off against advocates of the technology, who argue that it is a relatively expedient means of increasing the energy-starved country’s ability to generate electricity.