After the junta leader scrapped regulations on power plant construction at the stroke of a pen, hundreds of students in Thailand’s Deep South rallied against a proposed coal-fired power plant in the region.
Hundreds of students from the Federation of Patanian Students and Youth (PerMAS) and other student organisations on Friday afternoon, 22 January 2016, rallied at Prince of Songkla University in the Deep South Province of Pattani against the plan to construct a coal-fired power plant in Thepha District of Songkhla Province.
The 2,200 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant was proposed by Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). Many environmentalists and locals have expressed concerns about the plan, fearing its environmental impacts, which could worsen the security situation in the already volatile Deep South.
At the rally, a student leader read out a statement against construction of the plant while green banners were unfurled with messages such as ‘No to Thepha coal-fired power plant’.
Yesterday before the rally, Kholdun Barare, leader of an environmental conservation group at Prince of Songkla University, told Transborder News that if it goes ahead, the coal-fired power plant might irreversibly damage the environment in the region, as well as local cultures and livelihoods.
“EGAT has never really presented all the information [about the plant], but only promotes it, claiming that it will bring jobs and improve the local economy or that coal power is clean and will never become toxic,” said Kholdun.
On Wednesday, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister issued National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Orders No. 3/2016 and 4/2016, using his authority under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution, which gives him and security officers absolute power to maintain national security.
NCPO Order No. 3/2016 exempts the construction of buildings in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) from the regulatory framework of the 1975 Town and City Planning Act and other regulations on buildings. The order also takes away from local government the authority to impose regulations on construction in SEZs.
Similarly, NCPO Order No. 4/2016 exempts all kinds of power plants, water treatment plants, garbage disposal and collection plants, recycling plants, and gas processing plants from regulations under the Town and City Planning Act.
In early 2014, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) proposed a controversial 60 billion baht (about USD 1.8 billion) coal-fired power plant with 870 MW capacity and a coal seaport adjacent to it in Nuea Khlong District of Krabi Province.
Although the junta viewed the plan favourably, it has been heavily criticised by many environmental groups and local residents who fear the environmental impact of the plant. According to Gen Prayut, the power plant will guarantee Thailand’s energy security.
Anti-coal-fired power plant rally at Prince Sonkla University in Pattani Province on 22 January 2016 (photo from Thapanee Letsrichai facebook profile)