OPPONENTS of the Krabi coal-fired power plant began a meditation protest outside Government House yesterday, urging the government to honour its promise to defer construction of the proposed Bt48-billion project.
About 20 members of the Protect Andaman from Coal Network group were protesting against the government’s move allowing the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to seek contractors for the plant and coal loading pier and invest in a coal mine in Indonesia.
They said these moves were against the government’s promise to consider the option of renewable energy development in Krabi and delay the coal-fired power plant plan.
The campaign was led by Prasitchai Nu-nuan and Akaradej Chakjinda, who staged hunger strikes against the proposed power plant last year. They meditated outside Government House while some other activists also shaved off their hair.
The coordinator of the anti-coal network, Chariya Senpong, said the group was disappointed with the government’s recent moves on the construction of the coal-fired power plant.
“From the outcome of the tripartite committee to solve the problem of the coal-fired power plant and our observations about the area, it was clear that the government and Egat were continuously pushing forward the plan and even started preparations for the construction. This is in conflict with the prime minister’s promise to us,” Chariya said.
“This is totally unacceptable to us, so we have to signal our concerns to the government and ask them to do what they have promised.”
The statement to the prime minister said the network had not come to demand anything more from the government. It only wanted a reassurance that there would be support for renewable energy in Krabi, alignment with the Paris Agreement on sustainable development goals and control of greenhouse gas emissions.
Renu Vejaratpimol, one of the tripartite committee members, revealed that committee head General Sakon Satjanit had not allowed the panel to complete its study on the possibility of Krabi’s energy needs being met through renewable energy. He said they rushed to reach the conclusion on whether to build the power plant and submitted the result to the prime minister.
“We were trying to prove that Krabi can be a renewable energy hub scientifically, but the committee did not allow us to finish our job and that makes me doubt the neutrality of the committee,” Renu said.
Chariya said that police and military personnel monitored the protest closely and had asked the activists to stop the protest, but the network was unfazed and was going ahead with its campaign.
By 2pm, the activists were invited to meet the PM’s representative and submit their plea to the government, but the meditation protest continued.
Egat governor Kornrasit Pakchotanon revealed that the Krabi coal-fired power plant was still under consideration by the government and it was not known yet whether the project would get the green light.
“Egat is only one part of the tripartite committee and we still have to wait for the government decision whether to construct the power plant, which should be announced in December,” Kornrasit said.
“It is true that we have already lined up the contractors for the project, but that was just to be prepared in case we are allowed to build the power plant. We are already way behind schedule for this project and this delay could jeopardise the power security of the southern region,” he added.
According to a report in August, Egat has secured the contractors for the project. Power Construction Corporation of China Ltd won the bid to build the coal-fired power plant while Italian-Thai Development Public Co Ltd won the bid to build the coal-loading pier.
The Krabi coal-fired power plant was planned to generate 800 megawatts of electricity from imported bituminous or sub-bituminous coal from Indonesia. Project construction was scheduled to start this year and be completed in 2019.