By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
AN ENVIRONMENTAL group in Chaiyaphum plans will today stage a discussion forum about a coal-fired power plant proposed for Bamnet Narong district in the northeastern province despite the threat of arrests.
The Bamnet Narong Rak Ban Kerd group’s original plan of holding merit-making ceremonies this weekend in protest against the Bamnet Narong power plant was labelled by the military as a “threat to national stability” and against the Public Gathering Law.
So, the public forum will be held instead at the Kham Ping Market.
The group’s coordinator, Sukanya Sekkhuntod, said the forum would be held to show that the community had the right to protect the environment and the livelihood of locals against industrial pollution.
Sukanya said the merit-making ceremonies were planned for Wat Phetphumsuwan but the military pressured the abbot to stop the event from happening.
The military based that decision on the fact the invitation letter announcing the staging of the ceremonies stated the group’s goal of raising funds to fight against the plant.
The group was summoned to a meeting with the district chief, police and soldiers on Thursday |and informed that the ceremonies could not be held.
The potential for the event to cause conflicts in the community was |also cited as a reason for it being prohibited.
The authorities said anyone attending the event would be arrested.
“The invitation letters for the event said ‘raising funds against the coal-fired power plant’, which is in clear violation of the stability of the law and could cause damage to the government, so this event is illegal,” Lt-Colonel Surachai Chobcheun, deputy chief of the Chaiyaphum Provincial Damrongdhamma Centre, said .
Locals tried to negotiate with |the authorities to change the wording in the invitation, but the military |said high-ranking officers had |already ordered the ban.
The proposed coal power plant would be built to facilitate the opening of a potash and salt-rock mine in the district.
The Asean Chaiyaphum company was granted a concession to operate the mine in February last year.
Sukanya said that since then local people opposed to the project had been threatened by the military to stop their campaign against the power plant.
The coal-plant would generate 50 megawatts of electricity a day for the potash mine.
The Environmental Impact Assessment on the power plant is ongoing and a second public hearing on the project was held last October.