Anti-coal pair to press on with hunger strike
Protest over Krabi plant hits 10th day
After nearly 10 days of a hunger strike, anti-coal protesters Prasitchai Nunuan and Akradej Chakjunda look weak and weary, but maintain they will continue to fight against a coal-fired power plant planned for their home region in Krabi province.
Their protest, in front of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports on Bangkok's Ratchadamnoen Nok Road, began on July 10, aimed at convincing the government to withdraw the 800-megawatt coal-fired power plant and a coal-powered seaport.
They are also asking Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul to protect Krabi.
The pair claim the project will damage the Andaman Sea and locals' livelihoods.
About 100 people from Krabi visited the protesters Sunday to help the boost the pair's morale.
Mr Prasitchai said they wanted to show the government that people were willing to sacrifice their lives to stop the coal-fired power plant and deep-sea port.
The Krabi locals, who have formed an anti-coal network, seek to convince the government that the project will damage tourism and the environment, "but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears", Mr Prasitchai said.
Before the protest, the network had submitted more than 10 complaint letters to various authorities and conducted a series of anti-coal campaigns.
They are upset that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha supports coal as a source of energy.
Furthermore, since last year's coup, many controversial development projects have been given the green light in the South.
Projects under way include Satun's Pak Bara deep seaport, which is still awaiting an environmental and health impact assessment (EHIA) study; Songkhla's second deep-sea port, which still needs its first public hearing after a failed attempt in April last year; and Chumphon's deep-sea port, for which two public hearings were held in March and June last year.
Some observers believe the rush to develop is part of a plan to entice companies from the petrochemical industry to the southern seaboard.
Despite opposition from locals, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is moving ahead with the project in Krabi.
Egat is set to call tender submissions on Aug 5, even though the environmental impact assessment (EIA) — conducted between 2012 and 2014 — has yet to be approved by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy.
Meanwhile, in Songkhla's Thepha district, final public hearings on July 27 and 28 will wrap up the EHIA study for a 2,200-Mw coal-fired power plant and a coal-powered seaport.
The first hearing was held in November, watched over by a strong military and police presence.
Direk Hemnakhon, a coordinator for the Network of People Developing Thepha, said the plight of people living near Mae Moh lignite power plant in Lampang should have acted as a warning for future projects.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in favour of 131 people living near the plant, 15 of whom had died during the legal process, ordering Egat to pay 25 million baht in compensation for their damaged health and livelihoods.
"We don't want that to happen to us," he said.
The government's new power development plan 2015-2036, or the PDP 2015, favours the use of coal-fired power plant projects.
The PDP, revised at Gen Prayut's ruling, estimated installed power capacity will increase from 37,612Mw in 2014 to 70,410Mw in 2036.
This rise indicates Thailand needs more power supplies, and nine coal-fired power plants are in the pipeline.
Egat governor Soonchai Kumnoonsate claimed the authority needs to build more coal-fired power plants because there is a risk Thailand could suffer an energy crisis.
"We respect every opinion and everyone is welcome to the public hearings," he said, adding that in the past protesters had turned up as a mob, which is why Egat had to implement security measures.
Every step of the EIA and EHIA studies complied with the law, he added.