Junta sets up energy committee packed with military officers

To promote its controversial pro-coal policy, the junta has set up a committee to gather public feedback and promote understanding. But military officers occupy more than half of the committee seats.

On 22 March 2017, the Royal Gazette website published the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No. 5/2017 to establish a committee on energy policy in Southern Thailand.

The committee's main task is to foster public understanding of the government’s controversial plan to build coal-fired power plants in southern Thailand, as well as to listen to opinions from civil society groups and local people in the region.

Out of the 31 committee members, 17 are high-ranking military officers while the rest are governors of southern provinces.

Under the controversial Thailand Power Development Plan 2015-2036 (PDP 2015), the Energy Ministry aims to increase power system reliability by reducing dependence on natural gas, increasing the use of coal via ‘clean coal technology’, importing power from neighbouring countries and developing renewable energy.

Under the plan, the government will build more coal-fired power plants to cope with increasing domestic demand for electricity.

But such plans could affect local communities living next to the proposed plants, which may also cause irreversible environmental damage.

On 18 February 2017, authorities arrested key members of Save Andaman from Coal, an environmental conservation group, for leading a group protest in front of Government House against the junta’s plans for a coal-fired power plant in Krabi Province.

After releasing the protest leaders the next day, the government announced it would temporarily halt the Environmental Impact Assessment on the power plant project.