Protest ends after Chana project halted

Protest ends after Chana project halted

Group to rally again if promises not kept

Several Chana Rak Thin protesters wave at their fellow demonstrators on a bus, arranged by the government, as they head home to Songkhla on Wednesday, after the government agreed to halt a controversial industrial estate project. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Several Chana Rak Thin protesters wave at their fellow demonstrators on a bus, arranged by the government, as they head home to Songkhla on Wednesday, after the government agreed to halt a controversial industrial estate project. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed his gratitude to the Chana Rak Thin group for voluntarily returning home on Wednesday after the government agreed to halt the Chana industrial park project in Songkhla and conduct a strategic environment assessment (SEA).

The protesters, who were camped near Government House, started to pack up after morning prayers, removing their garbage and ending their 10-day protest after the cabinet agreed on Tuesday to delay the development and evaluate the project's SEA.

Prime Minister's Office Minister Anucha Nakasai said Gen Prayut had appointed Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow to head the committee inspecting the project and ordered agencies to conduct the SEA study transparently and with the participation of academics, experts and local people.

The prime minister said on Wednesday during a field trip in Yala that the future of the Chana industrial park project would be decided by local people and the results of the study.

"Everything will be bound by the law. We can't just blindly comply with any demand," he said.

"The government is ready to mitigate the effects [of the development] on every stakeholder, as we have to look at the investment from all angles," he added.

Even though the government agreed to comply with the protesters' basic demands, its decision did not fully satisfy the demonstrators, many of whom accused the government of stalling for time.

One protester, Sainab Yamadya, said he was glad the government had finally agreed to delay the project and accepted the group's demand that an SEA be conducted.

But if the government fails to keep its promises, they will return to Bangkok and renew their protest, he said.

The protesters left their site in front of the United Nations headquarters about 5.30am on two buses arranged by the government.

The protest in front of Government House began late on Dec 6. That night, 37 of them were arrested by police. They were all released the following day.

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