Southern coal-fired power plants exempt from city planning laws: Junta

The junta has exempted the construction of coal-fired power plants in Songkhla and Krabi provinces from city planning laws in a bid to push forward controversial projects despite strong local opposition. 

The exemption was published in the Royal Thai Gazette on Thursday 31 March 2016. It was issued after NCPO Order No. 4/2016, signed on 20 March 2016 by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as the Chair of the National Energy Policy Committee. 

The Order exempts 29 plants, 27 of them run by the state and two by private companies, from all laws related to city planning. 

The construction of coal-fired plants is planned for Thepha District in Songkhla Province and Nuea Khlong District, Krabi Province in the South. Both plans have met with strong opposition from local people who are concerned at the environmental impact. 

The plan in Thepha, which is part of the restive area in the southernmost provinces, has especially provoked discontent among the local Muslim Malay who see the top-down construction project as another example of their lack of the right to self-determination.  

In early March, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued Order No. 9/2016, to cut short the process of conducting Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) on construction megaprojects. This will make it possible for state agencies to fast-track projects with private subcontractors related to transportation, water management, public health, and public safety. The order allows state projects to be proposed to the Cabinet before a full EIA is completed.

Environmental activists, most of whom joined rallies which supported the military intervention in 2014, have become so dissatisfied with Order No. 9/2016 that they threatened in a public seminar last month to vote against the junta-sponsored draft constitution in the August referendum.