Protesters from Songkhla’s Thepa district have vowed to remain in Bangkok until the government drops plans to build the country’s biggest coal-fired power plant in their town. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Locals opposed to the construction of the controversial coal-fired power plant project in Songkhla’s Thepha district on Saturday called on the Energy Ministry to withdraw the project’s Environment and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) study as quickly as possible.

They made the calls yesterday after the ministry on Friday announced it had decided to postpone the start date for construction of two coal-fired power plants in Krabi and Songkhla provinces by another three years, saying the aim is to conduct further studies to create more understanding among locals.

They pledged to step up their movement if the ministry failed to comply with their demands. However, they did not go into detail about what the next step will be.

Madtayom Chaitem, coordinator of the Network of People from Songkhla-Pattani Against the Coal Power Plant, yesterday said they welcomed the ministry’s decision to postpone the project, but the ministry could do more to show sincerity to end the ongoing conflict between the state and the project’s opponents by withdrawing the EHIA.

He said the ministry should exclude the planned construction of all coal-fired power plants in the Power Development Plant to secure the public’s confidence that the government will no longer support coal power facilities in the country.

“This is just a step to success. But we will move nowhere until our requests are responded to positively by the ministry,” he said.

“Many more friends of ours from the No Coal Power Plant group in Krabi will join us next week and stay until we will reach our goal,” said Mr Madtayom, who has been leading his members to stage a protest in front of Government House for the past few weeks.

He said the ministry has already learnt that people will not give their support to projects that are likely to have strong impacts on health and the environment.

The Energy Ministry made its latest decision after facing stiff opposition from Thepha residents against the project. One of the latest protest incidents took place in Songkhla during the mobile cabinet meeting in the province last year.

Small clashes between state authorities and locals occurred leading to 17 people being arrested by police. They were charged with attacking officials, blocking traffic, carrying weapons in public places and staging protests without seeking state permission. The accused are expected to attend the court’s first hearing next month.

Amin Samaal, 25, who is among the 17 suspects, said the government should drop the case against them.

“We have the right to protect our own homes and natural resources. Our action is not a crime and taking legal action against us is not just,” he said.

News Reporter

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