Energy protesters halt public hearing
The first public hearing for the country's largest biomass-fired power plant in Tambon Pak Tob in Udon Thani's Nong Han district was cancelled after disruptions by an estimated 400 protesters.
The 20-megawatt power plant would be developed by Thai Appliance Industry Plc (Thaico).
Thaico was selected by the Energy Regulatory Commission to sell electricity to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).
The company also plans to build six waste sorting plants in the upper Northeast to feed refuse-derived fuel to the new power plant.
They are required to conduct two public hearings before the construction of the plant begins.
The first public hearing of the plant construction was supposed to be held Wednesday at Nong Han Tambon Administrative Organisation (TAO) in Nong Han district.
More than 200 police, military and administrative officers led by deputy Udon Thani governor Thanapol Chanaranimi provided security at the event.
More than 400 protesters showed up before the venue was opened at 8am. Due to heavy rains, officers unknowingly let the protesters in without screening them first.
Some 2,000 additional people entered the venue to attend the hearing.
As the hearing began, Kamplai Kampaengrat, former director of Ban Pak Tob School, and Cherdchai Kotchalee, a secretary of the former Udon Thani MP, Thongdi Manissan, interrupted and shouted calls for the cancellation of the event.
Protesters also submitted a petition to scrap the event to Mr Thanapol, insisting the hearing was not acceptable because it was not held at the project location in Tambon Pak Tob. They also accused Thaico and its investors of staging the event, saying they brought people in from outside villages to voice approval for the project.
The protesters later took over the stage, sharing anti-plant flyers and preventing the organisation of the event.
The protest leaders also used megaphones to communicate with protesters and encourage them to chase away those who do not live in Tambon Pak Tob, where the plant will be built. No violence was reported.
Mr Kamplai said authorities failed to follow through on their promise to set up a committee with locals before organising the hearing.
Sirisak Lertputthipinyo, adviser to Thaico, said the company already met with residents to boost their understanding of the project.
Mr Thanapol cancelled the hearing, citing safety concerns.
"The hearing has to be stopped because it can lead to unexpected situations which may be difficult to control," said Mr Thanapol.
Mr Sirisak said Thaico has not yet rescheduled the hearing.