Residents stage sit-in over new coal plant
Want 'farcical' EHIA study redone
A group of Thai-Muslims opposed to the Thepa coal-fired power plant project in Songkhla staged a sit-in protest in front of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment yesterday in the hope of halting a project they see as a development disaster.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) proposed the 3,000-megawatt plant to foster greater power security in the restive South.
Four people from Thepa district gathered in front of the ministry building with posters as they read a statement denouncing the undertaking.
They also read passages from the Koran, prayed and vowed to turn up at the ministry daily until it issues a response.
Local people, especially those who rely on fishing for their livelihoods, fear their communities will be destroyed once the coal plant opens in their district, said Direk Hemnakorn, coordinator of Permatamas, a people's network set up to defend community rights and the environment.
Mr Direk said an environmental health impact assessment (EHIA) carried out for the project failed to recognise the area as a fertile source of marine life that could be harmed by wastewater from the project.
He said the study also did not consider the environmental impact on the fishermen and other residents of nearby Pattani province who could lose their sources of livelihood.
"Where the project is located is a hub of marine resources that feeds over 10,000 families in Songkhla and Pattani. We can no longer sit idly by at home doing nothing," he said.
"We want to send a message directly to the minister saying the project is harmful to our community and destructive to our traditional way of life."
The group urged the government to revoke the EHIA report and start over in a more transparent manner to ensure the study is comprehensive and well-rounded.
A group of experts at the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning recently approved the EHIA study despite strong criticism from locals.
They claim it is illegal given its inclusion of so many unsupported facts, and made a similar contention about a series of public hearings on the coal plant.
Three rounds of public hearings were conducted amid heavy security by police and military personnel. Locals who opposed the project said they have been banned from attending.
The next step is for the National Environment Board to deliberate the project and later submit it to the cabinet for consideration.