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‘One-sided’ forums slammed as propaganda for coal plants

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Little talk on other power alternatives, critics complain

PUBLIC FORUMS on the energy situation in the southern region came under fire yesterday from opponents who claim their voices were not being heard and the sessions were just a “one-sided propaganda campaign”.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) held the forums to discuss the power situation in the South at Surat Thani, Krabi and Songkhla. The meetings are an effort to give interested parties a good understanding of energy problems in the region and listen to public opinions.
However, Prasitchai Nu-nuan, a prominent activist from the Save Andaman from Coal Network, said that the hearings did not provide a better understanding of the proposals but were instead just forums for planting biased government information.
“I attended the forum in Krabi. Throughout the morning session, there was only information on the authorities’ side that always emphasised the energy in the South is not enough for the rising power demand and ended up with the conclusion that the best electricity generation choice for the South was only coal,” Prasitchai said.
“Moreover, in the afternoon session, when it was a turn for the public to reflect on the power situation in the South, only registered and chosen people were allowed to speak … so this forum could not represent genuine public voices.”
He said many participants, mostly local community leaders, left the forum after the morning session, as they had a reconciliation meeting to attend.
“This will intensify the conflict over the coal-fired power plant in the local area, as the community leaders only received one side of the information from authorities and did not have a chance to listen to the other side of the truth from the opposition group,” he said.
Songkhla Citizen Network |coordinator Eakachai Issaratha |also said the forum was unjust because the structure was one-sided propaganda.
Eakachai said there had to be more public participation to solve the conflict over energy choices for the South. He said opposition groups have been invited to public forums only to make the meetings seem complete – without really |listening to diverse opinions.
“We want a forum where both sides can discuss the energy problem topic by topic and not just hold a forum and let the project owners conclude the result,” he said.
“We worry at the NCPO’s way of thinking to justify the plan to build coal-fired power plants by using a forum like this, as in the end it will only intensify the conflict in society.”
More than 1,000 people were reported to have attended the forums at Surat Thani, Krabi and Songkhla, held under tight security.
At the events, official agencies discussed the power situation in the Southern Region in the morning, while representatives from the public voiced opinions for 10 minutes each in the afternoon.
Fourth Army Region commander Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanit, who headed the public forum in Krabi, said it would not be used for a conclusion to build a coal-fired power plant. He said the session was held for all sides to give views and discuss opinions, as per the Prime Minister’s intention.
Meanwhile, at the Krabi forum it was reported that the highest power demand for the southern region had reached 2,630 megawatts, due to the hotter climate and growing tourism. This is 5 per cent higher than the previous expectation.
The forum was told that renewable energy such as wind, solar, and biomass were not the answer to the South’s energy stability, as they were not reliable sources of energy and also expensive. Coal was the |preferred way generate electricity, officials said.

 

Published : March 27, 2017

By : Pratch Rujivanarom, Sitthichai Sikkawat The Nation