Anti-coal groups denounce junta’s southern energy committee

Southern civil society groups have denounced a public forum held by the junta to gather feedback on its pro-coal policies, saying the event was merely self-promotion.

On 27 March 2017, Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich, a representative of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), presided over a public forum on energy policy in southern Thailand. The forum was convened in Mueang District, Krabi Province.

The event was organised by a controversial committee, more than half of whose members are military officers.

At the event, Piyawat said the government will act democratically and listen to suggestions from civil society groups and other stakeholders about its pro-coal energy policies, adding that similar forums will be held in other southern provinces in the following days.

But in the lead-up to the forum, Save Andaman from Coal (SAC), an environmental conservation group, issued a statement on 26 March denouncing the forum, saying that the promises of the authorities are not genuine.

The committee organised the event only to promote the government’s stance on the issue, SAC concluded.

On 27 March, the Southern NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) issued a similar statement, concluding that civil society groups and local people should have been allowed to participate in the energy policy formulation process from the beginning.

The organisation suggests that the authorities resort to renewable energy sources instead of proceeding with their plans to build coal-fired power plants in several southern provinces.

NGO-COD also demanded that the government make the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) processes on public development projects more inclusive and transparent.  

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.

Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich representing the NCPO at a public forum on energy policy in southern Thailand at Mueang District of Krabi Province on 27 March 2017