Soldiers guard authorities to visit controversial power plant project in Deep South

Fully armed soldiers guarded state electricity executives during their visit to a controversial coal-fired power plant project in Thailand’s restive Deep South amid opposition from the local community.

On Wednesday, 13 July 2016, armed troops and Humvees were sent to guard executives of the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) during their visit to the site of a coal-fired power plant project in Thepha District, Songkhla Province. The troops were present in an attempt to prevent disturbances caused by local opponents of the power plant, reported Green South Organization (GSO).

 A local activist stands by an armed soldier (source: Green South Organization)

According to the GSO, the visit is a part of EGAT’s Thepha Festival, an event held on 13 and 14 July and aimed at increasing local support for the controversial power plant.

GSO also reported that various banners opposing the power plant in the area were either destroyed or removed. GSO believed that the banners were destroyed by local people and officials who support the project.

A destroyed banner against the Thepa power plant project (source: Green South Organization)

In spite of the high security measures and intimidation, local people peacefully gathered in front of the venue and raised green flags and signs reading “No Coal”, Manager Online reported.

Local Muslim protest in front of the festival venue (source: Green South Organization)

Local communities oppose the EGAT-sponsored project, arguing that it will create massive pollution in the area, and destroy the marine ecosystem, the tourist industry, and local fishing communities. The project will also lead to the eviction of more than 100 families, plus Muslim religious sites and schools.
 
Thepha is part of Thailand’s restive Deep South, which covers Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, and four districts in Songkhla, where the majority of residents are Muslim Malay. The area has been in conflict for more than a decade. In addition to religious issues, state-led development projects are a cause of conflict.