AMID concerns about possible violence during a public hearing on a coal-fired power plant in Thepha district, the governor of Songkhla has issued an order prohibiting any unauthorised gathering at the venue.
By editor on 2015-07-26 Thailand
COAL-FIRED POWER PLANT
High alert in Songkhla for hearing on power plant
THE SUNDAY NATION
BANGKOK: — AMID concerns about possible violence during a public hearing on a coal-fired power plant in Thepha district, the governor of Songkhla has issued an order prohibiting any unauthorised gathering at the venue.
Governor Thamrong Charoenkul, citing his power under the Public Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act, issued the order banning any gathering other than the public hearing of the stakeholders at the Pak Bang Tambon Administrative Organisation in the southern province’s Thepha district.
“Intelligence shows that it is possible there will be movement by a group of people who oppose construction of the Thepha electricity plant. The local administration may be affected as a result and there could be disruption to peace and threat to public safety or damage to individual or state properties,” the order said, explaining the reasons for the ban.
The order is effective from today until Tuesday. Those who defy the order risk up to three months jail, and/or a fine of up to Bt6,000.
The public hearing is scheduled for tomorrow and Tuesday.
Thamrong assured participants yesterday that the provincial authorities are well prepared for the public hearing.
“We will take care of the safety of all the participants. But we will take precautions,” he said, adding there could be “people with ill intentions” attempting to create an incident.
The governor said he did not expect any violent clash between opponents and supporters of the project. “I don’t think such an incident would happen. Both sides should present their arguments. I would like to invite people who agree and disagree with the project to take part in the hearing,” he said.
About 600 representatives of the local residents are expected to take part in the event, which is to be presided over by the provincial governor.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), the project owner, estimated that altogether between 8,000-10,000 would take part in the third, and final, public hearing on the project.
Senior Egat official Phol Kongsua said the governor’s order resulted from concerns of the security agencies, as Thepha district is part of the insurgency-hit areas.
“We have to ensure the safety of the participants at the event. The presence of security officials are not aimed at pressuring opponents of the project,” he said.
Environmental activists have campaigned against coal-fired power plants planned for Songkhla, and Krabi – another southern province popular among tourists.
Last week, a group of environmental activists and Krabi residents managed to pressure the government to allow the establishment of a joint committee of stakeholders to review the Krabi project.
In Songkhla, opponents of the 2,200-megawatt Thepha power plant yesterday gathered at the Prince of Songkla University’s Hat Yai campus to criticise the project. They also accused Egat of holding the two previous public hearings on the project without transparency.
Banjong Nasae, a local human rights campaigner, said the project’s opponents called for the Thepha power plant to use alternative energy instead of coal.
“We don’t totally oppose construction of power plants. What the local residents want to know is why it must be coal even though alternative energies are affordable. Alternative energy should be more suitable to the local environment,” he said.