Southerners urge Thai junta to scrap coal-power plant

Business operators on a tourist island in southern Thailand have urged the Thai authorities to halt plans to build a coal-fired power plant in the region and ‘go green’ for the sake of the tourism industry and the environment.

On Thursday, 16 July 2015, local people on Ko Lanta, an island on the western Andaman Coast of Thailand off Krabi Province, came together to issue a joint statement to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, junta leader and Prime Minister, calling on him to cancel plans to build a coal-fired power plant in the province.  

In early 2014, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) proposed to build a controversial 60 billion baht (about USD 1.8 billion) coal-fired power plant with 870 megawatts (MW) capacity and a coal seaport adjacent to it in Nuea Khlong District of Krabi Province.     

The plan is viewed favourably by the junta. However, it has been heavily criticised by many environmental groups and local residents who fear the environmental impact from the plant. According to Gen Prayut, the power plant will guarantee Thailand’s energy security.

Business operators and residents of Ko Lanta (Lanta Island) hold banners reading “Who’s killing the Andaman?” at the island’s main pier on 16 July 2015 (courtesy of Save Andaman from Coal)

On 28 May 2015, he complained “in the future if there is no electricity then don’t complain. Don’t complain if the electricity bills go up. I would like to make it clear now that if you do nothing then just don’t complain”.

According the business owners and other residents of the Island, the coal-fired power plant, if completed, will be detrimental to the environment which will cause heavy losses to the local fishery industry and lucrative tourism industry which bring in billions of baht of revenue to the region each year.

“If it [the coal-fired power plant] goes into operation, Krabi people would have to exchange the local fisheries and the thriving tourism industry, which most people depend upon, for the power plant,” said Sombun Damrongkongtrakun, the sub-district chief of Lanta Island.

The statement also added that Krabi might be removed from the list of Ramsar conservation areas, an international intergovernmental treaty providing a framework for international cooperation on conservation and the wise use of wetlands.

 

It also cited studies of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) showing that coal is one of the worst types of fossil fuels to be used for producing energy due to its high carbon emissions.

Moreover, the residents of Ko Lanta said that in the past many shipping accidents, with leakages of chemicals and oil within 100 km of Krabi’s shore, had already brought about many environment effects on the region. Therefore, the effects of the coal-fired power plant on the shore of Krabi itself will be much worse.

The group also said that at present there is already an energy capacity surplus of about 50 per cent that can be used in the region, so there is no need to rush the construction of a coal-fired power plant.

The statement suggested that at present 11 oil palm factories in the region can already produce electricity from their waste and 21 other oil palm factories have the potential to produce electricity in the same manner. Therefore, the local and central government should invest in and support renewable energy rather than fossil fuels.  

The business owners and residents of the island concluded in the statement that they are committed to an ‘Andaman Goes Green’ policy and that the government should choose 300 billion baht worth of annual revenue from the tourism industry on the Andaman Coast over a coal-fired power plant.