PM: Power plant opponents arrested for attack

PM: Power plant opponents arrested for attack

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visits the Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya in Muang district, Songkhla, on Tuesday. (Government House photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visits the Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya in Muang district, Songkhla, on Tuesday. (Government House photo)

SONGKHLA: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday denied the government had violated human rights when they arrested 16 opponents to a coal-fired power plant project, saying they were taken because they attacked officials.

He said the government had been aware of the movements of opponents to the power plant project in Songkhla ahead of his visit to the southern province and it had tried to organise a meeting to listen to them, but to no avail.

"They proposed they meet the prime minister to submit a letter. I wonder what the intention is... Finally, they attacked officials and they will be prosecuted for this," Gen Prayut said.

"I assigned the secretary-general to the prime minister to meet them and accept their letter but they rejected the offer. They insisted only the prime minister receive their letter. I think it's not right."

"Violating human rights means officials do something wrong. But if you break the law and say officials do something wrong, it's not right," the prime minister said.

Gen Prayut also said discussions on environmental impacts of the power plant project would continue to the end. Afterwards, the project would be sent to the National Environment Board to decide whether to proceed. "Authorities have not decided whether the plant would be built or not," Gen Prayut said.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the demonstrators had earlier agreed to send their letter to Gen Wilas Arunsri, secretary-general to the prime minister, on Tuesday but later decided to give it to the PM on Monday even though they knew the prime minister had a tight schedule in Pattani at that time.

A helicopter was then prepared for Gen Wilas to meet the demonstrators in Songkhla on Monday but they refused to meet him and insisted on seeing the prime minister only, the spokesman said.

"The Songkhla governor also prepared food for the demonstrators about 100-200 metres from their site but they insisted on staying in the middle of the road.

"A demonstrator used a megaphone to arouse others. Flagpoles were used to attack officials and four policemen were injured. One policeman had a broken nose," Lt Gen Sansern said, referring to the demonstration site at Samrong intersection in Muang Songkhla district.

Sixteen demonstrators were arrested on Monday. One of them, a 16-year-old, was released on bail of 5,000 baht Tuesday. The others could not arrange their bail of 90,000 baht within the same day.

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

The locals, most of them fishermen, fear pollution from the plant will destroy the coastal ecology and harm their livelihoods.

Among the reasons are potential air pollution from burning 23,000 tonnes of coal daily and from coal shipments involving the use of over a thousand lorries daily, as well as the discharge of 9 million metric tonnes of coolant water into the sea.

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