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Nod for Krabi plant ‘would be illegal’

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Govt warned not to rush decision after ‘fake’ official letter provokes new ire.

ACADEMICS HAVE warned that any decision regarding the Krabi coal-fired power plant at the meeting of the Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO) committee tomorrow could be against the law.
They cautioned the government that pushing the project through without taking into consideration scientific facts would deepen the conflict between affected residents and authorities.
The debate over the proposed Krabi coal-fired power plant re-emerged as the date to determine the fate of the 870-megawatt, coal-fired power plant in Nue Klong district approaches. On Tuesday evening, a copy of a letter – widely shared on the social media – sought support for the project, causing a furore. 
The official letter, purportedly from the Khlong Thom district office to village heads in the district, asked every village in the district to send 20 representatives to Krabi City Hall to show their support for the power plant.
Chainarong Sretthachau, a professor at Mahasarakham University, said yesterday that it would be illegal for tomorrow’s meeting to approve the Krabi coal-fired power plant, adding that such an action would only be evidence of the government’s efforts to bypass proper procedures in considering the project.
“A power plant like this one will have to abide by the National Environmental Quality Act. The project must pass the Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) first and then it has to be considered by the National Environment Board and the Cabinet before construction can begin,” Chainarong said.
“The meeting tomorrow to discuss whether the project can continue is clearly a violation of these procedures and would be against the law because this project has not even passed the EHIA. Bypassing the procedures is not going to help this project qualify.” 
The EPPO committee is chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha with the main duty of supervising the energy policy of the country and monitoring and supporting new projects.
He said projects with wide-ranging impacts needed to go through proper procedures laid down by the law. The procedures had been designed to make sure that the environment and people’s well-being were protected, he added.
He also criticised the official letter asking villages in Khlong Thom district to send representatives to support the coal-fired power plant. He said it was an undignified attempt by authorities to push forward the controversial project and it would only negatively affect the government.
“It demonstrates the imbalance in law enforcement. There have been many cases where people affected by government policies or projects were arrested because more than five people gathered, while the government itself encourages a crowd to gather and support its project. This will only intensify the conflict in the area,” he said.
The letter shared on the Internet was written on official letterhead, with the official emblem and signature of the Khlong Thom assistant district chief officer. 
The letter said the government planned to build the coal-fired power plant in the southern region to tackle power shortages. “The Energy Ministry and concerned agencies have a duty to create a good understanding among the people of Krabi, and to comply with the prime minister’s order, the district asks every village to bring 20 people to Krabi City Hall at 3pm on February 16 to show their support for the coal-fired power plant,” the letter said.
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan strongly denied that the government had ordered people to show up in support of the power plant and said anyone could forge such a letter.
Interior Ministry permanent secretary Grisada Boonrach also said the ministry had not issued any such order. He added that Krabi’s provincial governor has been asked to investigate the matter and report back immediately if there was anything suspicious.
“We are now investigating this issue and it is still too early to accuse or punish anyone,” Grisada said.
Meanwhile, Krabi deputy governor Sompoj Chotchuchuang also said that the province had not sent the letter.
“We don’t know where the letter came from. We have traced the serial number on the letter and found a letter with the same serial number, but the content is different, so we are quite sure that the copy of the letter on the Internet is fake,” Sompoj said.
“We are considering what action to take next because forging an official letter is a crime.”
He also said the province respected the opinion of everyone and always offered room for all sides to express their views.
 

Published : February 15, 2017

By : PRATCH RUJIVANAROM, WATTANA KAMCHU THE NATION