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Energy reform group warns NCPO

Issue is 'important and cannot be hidden' say activists after arrests of march leaders

THE NATIONAL COUNCIL for Peace and Order may be able to rein in the struggle for energy reform now but they will not be able to do this for long, National Human Rights Commissioner Parinya Sirisarakarn warned yesterday.

"The struggle has attracted support from all groups of people, regardless of their political affiliation," Parinya said.

"Soldiers can arrest demonstrators looking for energy reform now because martial law is in place. But once martial law is lifted, more demonstrators will come forward."

He spoke up after 11 leaders of the March for Energy Reform campaign were arrested on Wednesday.

The march kicked off in Hat Yai in Songkhla on Tuesday with about 100 marchers. They had planned to walk 1,600km to Bangkok, mobilising support for energy reform along the way.

The 42nd Military Circle, however, intercepted them on Wednesday, saying that most of the country is still under martial law. After negotiations failed to end the dispute, soldiers detained 11 of the 20 people leading the march.

42nd Military Circle chief-of-staff Worapon Worapan said the move was necessary because people pushing for energy reform should put their ideas via the National Reform Council.

Ekachai Isarata, one of the march's leaders, refused yesterday to bow to military pressure.

"The NCPO has vowed to reform the country. So why does it need to arrest demonstrators pushing for energy reform?" he said.

Ekachai's group refused to cancel the march in exchange for the release of the 11 leaders in military custody.

"If martial law bans demonstrations of more than five people, we will march in small groups. Each group will have no more than four members," he said.

He added that his group would also organise a big rally tomorrow in Phatthalung to press the NCPO for a clear answer on why it had to control the struggle for energy reform.

Environmentalist Harnnarong Yaowalert urged the junta to stop viewing all demonstrations as political. "Such a perspective is not good for the NCPO," he said, stressing that people should be allowed to express their opinions.

He warned that if the NCPO did not tread carefully, the detention of the march leaders might trigger a crisis.

Parinya said the new government led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha must present clear-cut information on the country's energy sector.

"Relevant authorities keep saying that information presented by activists and people calling for the energy reform is untrue. If they really think so, please present proof," he said.






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