Though the energy reform forum on Wednesday failed to achieve much in terms of solutions, senior monk Phra Buddha Issara said he would hold another round of talks mid-next month - this time focusing on alternative energy.
The monk explained that the results of this forum would be submitted to the National Reform Council, which is still in the process of being put together.
Also, in his Facebook post, the monk called on all energy experts to gather at Or Noi temple in Kamphaeng Saen district, Nakhon Pathom province on September 5 to put together information and come up with questions for the upcoming forum so it has a more productive outcome.
The last forum was held at the Army Club and resulted in a heated debate between Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT Plc) executives and technocrats on the one hand and energy reform advocates on the other. They obviously did not trust one another and hence failed to achieve any resolutions.
“Someone told me that if I wasn’t there, people would be flinging chairs and tables at one another,” Phra Buddha said.
However, he added that a few key questions that had been left unanswered would be added to the next forum’s agenda, such as the proposal of separating household and industrial energy. The monk argues that domestic energy sources belong to the people, and should therefore be reserved for household consumption at a cheaper price, while industries should rely on imported energy.
Other key issues on the agenda will be the push to stop basing local retail prices of oil on the market price in Singapore and reducing the price of gas locally to match PTT’s export price, he said.
The monk’s role in energy reform has surprised several people. Phra Buddha, who made a name for himself while leading a protest against the Yingluck Shinawatra government early this year, said he was now planning to champion for reform in this important sector.
The monk had joined the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who has now also taken up saffron robes.
This time though, the people who stood together to oust Yingluck’s government seem to differ in terms of energy reform. The Democrat Party-backed technocrats want energy to be reformed according to market forces, while some activists are championing for the nationalisation of energy enterprises.
Buddha Issara brought both these groups together on Wednesday with the objective of achieving a common solution.
He said one of the key reasons behind him accepting the moderator’s role is that he wanted to maintain the “right balance” by listening to all sides. He told The Nation that he was “stressed, nervous and excited” as he sat in the moderator’s chair that day.
He also admitted that the energy reform advocate group did not fully trust him, which is why they were hesitant in joining the forum and did not spend much time preparing their questions. Hence, he said, their questions to the PTT interest group and technocrats were not very sharp and objective.
On the positive side, though, he said the forum paid a lot of attention to the public and focused on how energy reform is important to ordinary people because it fundamentally affects their lives.