Locals urge haste on Mae Moh

Locals urge haste on Mae Moh

People living near a coal-fired power plant in Lampang's Mae Moh district have asked Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to pressure the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) into speeding up their relocation to other areas following a court order.

The residents made their demands yesterday at a seminar called "What should Thai society learn from the Mae Moh Case?" held at the Thai Society of Environmental Journalists.

Pittaya Kaewtiwong, a 50 year-old Lampang local, is one of 131 plaintiffs who filed a complaint with the Administrative Court in 2003.

Mr Pittaya said the Supreme Administrative Court ordered Egat two months ago to move all people residing within a five-kilometre radius of the plant to residential areas outside the hazard zone.

But since the ruling, no Egat representatives have taken any steps to meet leaders of the local community to discuss the court order.

"We want to hear Egat's position, but they have kept silent on the issue," said Mr Pittaya.

"We feel we can no longer trust anyone, except the prime minister. We want him to visit our village and help us as soon as possible," he added.

On Feb 10, the Supreme Administrative Court in Chiang Mai ordered Egat to set up a committee to relocate villagers suffering from pollution generated by lignite mines and the coal-fired Mae Moh power plant.

Those willing to move were to be relocated outside the five-kilometre strip surrounding the mines and power plant. The court also ordered Egat to turn its Mae Moh golf course back into forestland.

Lertsak Khamkongsak, who coordinates a network to guide public policies on mining resources, fears Egat will not follow the court orders, especially reforesting the golf course.

Egat has sought approval from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning and the Department of Primary Industries and Mines to clear contaminated soil from the mining site rather than reforesting the golf course.

The legal battle between Egat and the villagers dates back to 2003, when the community sued Egat in the Administrative Court for compensation.

Even if Egat compensates villagers, it will not be enough to address the issues involved, said Surachai Trong-ngam, of the Environmental Law Foundation.

State agencies need to protect villagers' rights to live in a clean and healthy environment, as guaranteed by the constitution, he said.

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