Protesters end rally but vow to monitor joint panel set u to review power project
RIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha’s order to put the Krabi coal-fired power plant project on hold brought an end to the protest outside Government House last night, a rally organiser said.
Anti-coal activist Prasitchai Noonual said the protesters were happy with the government’s decision to set up a joint committee that includes all stakeholders to discuss, study and improve the plan to build a 800MW coal-fired power plant in Krabi, which is a popular tourist destination.
“We are still unsure if the agencies involved will comply. So we will [today] ask the agencies behind the implementation, such as the Energy Ministry and Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand [Egat], to sign an agreement together at the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission,” Prasitchai told the press outside Government House.
He also said that the PM had promised to support alternative sources of power, provided they produce sufficient electricity.
As of press time, the protesters – mostly from Krabi – were heading home after hearing about Prayut’s decision. Prasitchai said they would still closely monitor the project and return if the agreement was broken.
Earlier yesterday, Prayut had to sneak out of his office due to the protest.
Some 100 Krabi residents and environmental activists had gathered to demand a reply from the PM over their call to postpone the project’s bidding.
Yesterday morning, representatives of the government asked the anti-coal protesters not to march to Government House and agreed to present their demands to the prime minister.
Somsak Nobnorb, one of the key activists, revealed that the government had promised to give an answer by 3pm yesterday but even an hour after the deadline had passed there was no response.
He said now the Protect Andaman from Coal Network will carry on its campaign to stop both the environmental impact assessments and the bid for the new power plant.
Deputy chief executive of Krabi Provincial Administrative Organisation Kittichai Chengoun pointed out that the PM was basing on inaccurate information his judgement that the South faced a severe shortage of power. He said in reality the South can produce more than 2,000 megawatts and consumes 2,300MW.
“We are not just opposed to the development plan, we are also offering a possible way out for the power shortage in the South. In Krabi province, we have a biomass power plant running on palm oil but we currently cannot sell the electricity because the power line cannot accept more power,” he revealed.
He also asked the PM to stop mocking and threatening the activists.
However, Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr, who is also the Deputy Defence Minister, denied threatening the mother of prominent anti-coal activist Prasitchai Noonual. He defended the incident, saying an ordinary soldier had just paid a visit.
Prasitchai had on Wednesday said that seven soldiers had come to his home in Phatthalung province and intimidated his mother in order to stop his hunger strike and anti-coal protest in front of Government House.
There were also reports that the soldiers had visited the house of another activist Sitthipong Sangshet.
Udomdej said the Army has the Peace and Order Maintaining Force, which has the responsibility to maintain peacekeeping operations nationwide and send officers to look after the people regularly by hearing their problems and helping them find a solution.
He also expressed concern that vested interests may use the protest for their political agenda. He said he believed the prime minister would listen to all groups, especially the pure voice of the people, but it would not be appropriate if anyone takes advantage of the protest for their political agenda.
“I think there are a lot benefits from the Krabi coal-fired power plant because I learned that it has technology to minimise pollution and it would cause no environmental impact. Everyone should consider it carefully based on the reasons and the benefits to the country,” he said.
Egat governor Sunchai Khamnunsaret said Egat is willing to listen to any worries and improve the project. He insisted that the new power plant has modern technology to control pollution emissions and the public can inspect the project at every step.
“The Krabi power plant project strictly adheres to the environmental law according to the province’s strategy to be a green city,” Sunchai affirmed.