Locals divided over Chana plan

Locals divided over Chana plan

Public hearings held over Songkhla industrial project

Ready to listen: Residents from three tambons in Songkhla's Chana district turn up in droves at the Chana Witthaya School for a public hearing on the government's plan to construct an 18-billion-baht industrial estate in 16,700 rai of land in their communities.
Ready to listen: Residents from three tambons in Songkhla's Chana district turn up in droves at the Chana Witthaya School for a public hearing on the government's plan to construct an 18-billion-baht industrial estate in 16,700 rai of land in their communities.

Public forums were underway yesterday under heavy security surveillance in Chana district in Songkhla to garner opinions from locals about the government's controversial plan to construct an 18-billion-baht industrial estate on 16,700 rai of land covering three tambons.

However, only residents from the three tambons near the proposed project were allowed to take part in two public hearings which were organised close to each other on the grounds of Chana Witthaya School.

The sessions addressed the same issues but were split due to social distancing measures.

Those from out of town and activists who opposed the project were barred from attending the sessions.

About 1,500 residents from tambons Nathap, Taling Chan and Sakom who would be directly affected by the project were given access to the forums.

Many held placards with messages supporting the Chana industrial city prototype project.

Hundreds of crowd-control officers were stationed along both sides of the 9-kilometre road leading to the school.

Protesting residents and activists who were determined to join the forum, meanwhile, set up a rally stage about 5km from the hearing sites after they were barred from entering the school.

The hearings were sponsored by the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC).

Khairiya Ramanya, a representative of a movement calling itself Chana Rak Thin (Love Chana) network, read out a statement in protest against both the project and yesterday's hearings.

The group called for the immediate scrapping of the project, which they said was unjust.

They said the cabinet had abused its power to approve the project and later tried to sway public opinion to support it rather than let locals themselves decide, Ms Khairiya said.

And although the Chana industrial project is a large-scale project, only people in the three tambons where the estate will be built were allowed to air their opinions.

At the same time, the opinions of other residents in Songkhla who were also bound to be affected by the project's environmental impacts had fallen felt on deaf ears, she said.

The group said the project was being used as a tool to secure business benefits, with the help of the SBPAC, for certain groups of businesspeople including land vendors and real estate brokers.

The group also raised concerns over the possible environmental impact the industrial estate project will have on Chana district's rich marine resources, beaches and fresh air.

Activist Srisuwan Janya, meanwhile, posted on his Facebook a message saying yesterday's public hearings over the Chana industrial estate project were unacceptable as they were carried out in a way that did not comply with Section 58 of the constitution.

Section 58 of the charter requires a project with possible serious impacts on the environment, public health and the quality of life of local people to undergo sufficient public hearings attended by all groups who may be affected by the project, said Mr Srisuwan, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution.

He urged those disappointed at yesterday's hearings to take the matter to court. A group of 179 environmental academics and activists also called for a revision of the project.


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