Locals march against coal power plant

Locals march against coal power plant

Locals from Thepha district in Songkhla began the first day of a protest march against the coal power plant project in their hometown yesterday, with the goal of gaining the attention of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha who is preparing to host a mobile cabinet in the province on Monday.

Ekkachai Isaratha, secretary-general of the NGO Coordinating Committee on Southern Development, said that around 50 residents from Thepha district began their march today and expect to reach their destination in Songkhla's Muang Songkhla district tomorrow if there is no intervention from the army.

The army has been known to stamp out public protests by their summoning leaders for "attitude adjustment" at army bases.

Right from the start, the protesters were accompanied by military, police and security officers who closely monitored their activities.

Thepha police station sent an official warning to the group, saying that residents were violating the 2015 Public Gathering Act, having failed to obtain a permit to stage their march.

Mr Ekkachai insisted the group will keep marching until they meet Prime Minister Prayut.

He said that the residents would like to invite Gen Prayut to visit the construction site of the proposed coal power plant in Thepha district so that the prime minister can see for himself why they are so worried that the project will destroy the community's way of life as well the environment in the region.

"We just want him to see the other side of the equation, which he may not be aware of. The business sector has enjoyed the right to meet the prime minister, but why not the locals who are now suffering from this harmful project?" Mr Ekkachai said.

Residents from Thepha district have been campaigning to put an end to the 2,200 megawatt-coal fired power plant for several years.

The project is touted to become the largest one ever built in Thailand. The locals, most of them fishermen, fear pollution from the plant will destroy the coastal ecology and harm their livelihoods.

Local protesters also distributed pamphlets outlining 20 reasons why the government needs to put an end to the project and focus on implementing renewable solutions instead.

Among the reasons are the potential air pollution from the burning of 23,000 tonnes of coal daily, the pollution from coal shipments that will require over a thousand lorries to haul daily, and the discharge of 9 million metric tonnes of coolant water from the factory into the sea.

Residents have sent several petition letters to the authorities, to no avail. On the contrary, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning recently approved the project's Environment and Health Impact Assessment study, suggesting the construction process can start.

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