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Thepha power plant backers threaten Bangkok rally

Dec 20. 2017
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By SOMCHAI SAMART,
PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE NATION

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SUPPORTERS OF the Thepha coal-fired power plant project in Songkhla have threatened to protest in Bangkok if the government does not approve the project within 45 days, while denouncing opponents of the plan as “outsiders” who do not represent local people.

Meanwhile, the opposition group released a statement saying the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) often strategically used organised social movements to justify its projects and drum up support. The statement added that the 2,200-megawatt, coal-fired power plant was a serious issue that would affect many people outside of Thepa district.

Supporters of the plant, represented by 66 organisations including the Thepha People’s Network for Sustainable Development and local communities leaders, met confidentially on Tuesday to discuss their strategy and later announced to the media that they had decided to give the government 45 days to make a decision. They said they would march to Government House if a decision is not made.

A representative of the group and former head of Thepha’s Tambon Tha Muang, Li Samor, said it was time for the government to move forward after four years of delay, so supporters would gather in front of the Thepha District Office today to show support for the power plant.

“There are many movements that try to pressure the government to stop the coal-fired power plant project’s progress,” Samor said.

“However, these movements are outsiders and do not represent the real voices of people in Thepha district. They do not respect the community’s rights and wrongly have cited a decision by local people against the project.”

He added that supporters of the project had tried to communicate with the government, but they had not received a response, while the media had not reported about their campaign unlike the opposition group’s, which was often in the news.

“The government needs to show its clear position, not just saying that they agree with the project, but make it clear about the project’s progress. We want clarity from the government or we will demonstrate at Government House, as the opposition groups have done,” he said.

Meanwhile, a leader of the opposition group, Direk Hemnakhon, released a statement on behalf of the Network of Songkhla–Pattani People against the Coal-Fired Power Plant supporters condemning the statement as an Egat strategy to promote the project, similar to a strategy that had been used regarding the Krabi coal-fired plant.

Direk said the movement of project supporters had lied and engaged in a conspiracy formed by the government and people who benefit from the coal industry.

He also said it was a violation of community rights to proceed with the project without telling the truth about pollution caused by the plant, urging the public to closely monitor the “dirty game” advocating for the project.

Somboon Khamhang, secretary-general of the Committee on Rural Development in the South, posted on Facebook questioning whether the decision to build the plant should be in the hands of local people exclusively, as plant supporters and Egat had often stated the plant was needed to ensure national power stability.

Somboon added that separating “insiders” and “outsiders” was problematic, while warning Egat that it had provoked a conflict by branding opposition groups as outsiders rather than following proper procedures to consider the project.

If the project goes forward, Egat’s Thepha coal-fired power plant will be build on 2,850 rai (456 hectares) in Thepa district’s Tambon Pak Bang with a budget of about Bt134 billion and use imported coal for fuel.

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