By Pratch Rujivanarom
Songkhla Province, Thailand, February 16, 2016
ACTIVISTS have voiced concern that a coal-fired power plant proposed for Thepa district in Songkhla will cause more violence in the Deep South – as mosques, a religious school and Muslim cemeteries would have to be moved to make way for the plant.
They also claimed that all three public hearings about the plant and its coal transport pier were not held properly. They have said the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) should revoke the Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) on the project.
Yesterday, the Southernmost People’s Network of Community Right and Environment Safeguard for Peace (Permatamas) and a group of locals and students from Prince of Songkla University’s Pattani Campus gathered at ONEP to give a petition to the agency’s secretary general.
The group called for the EHIA to be dropped, and the full EHIA report be revealed, along with a report with specialists’ feedback.
The group’s representative from Pattani, Mustarsheedeen Waba, said the project would aggravate the insurgency in the Deep South because in order to build the new plant, about 240 families, plus two mosques, two Muslim cemeteries, a religious school, and a Buddhist temple would have to be relocated.
“The authorities did not respect the Muslim identity of the people in the Deep South, so the southern insurgency began. The coal-fired power plant project in Thepa district, which is in the zone of insurgency, will worsen the situation, as it will make the people feel that the state disrespects their faith and livelihoods,” Mustarsheedeen said.
The Thepa plant is an Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) project for a 2,200 megawatt coal-fired power plant that would use imported coal on 2,960 rai of land in Tambon Pak Bang.
According to a satellite image, the site of the plant is next to the community around the Thepa River Delta and a mangrove forest.
Permatamas coordinator and a professor at Prince of Songkla University Direk Hemnakorn said the group called on ONEP to stop consideration of the impact assessment for Thepa coal plant because three public forums on the projects were all severely unjust and had neglected opposition voices.
“In the first public hearing, they [Egat] gave free rice to all attendees. The second one, they hosted the event in secret and for the third hearing, the authorities deployed a troop of soldiers and police to guard the forum and did not let the opposition side join in the forum. How can we see the procedure justified?” Direk asked.
“The power plant site is also only 8 kilometres away from Pattani province, where there have been no environmental or health studies for the project done and this makes the people in Pattani feel they are marginalised by the state, as their well-being ignored.”
Piyanan Soponkanabhorn, ONEP deputy secretary general, received the petition from the activist groups and assured them that she would pass it to the secretary general to consider. She said consideration of Thepa coal plant was just in the first phase and Egat had not resubmitted the amended EHIA report yet.
Direk asked to copy the full EHIA report for the project together with a report on feedback by the specialist board. But this was denied. Piyanan said they had to get permission first.
Image: Thailand Coal Monitoring Network