'Thepha model' eyed for other power projects

THE Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) declared yesterday that the public review on its coal-fired power plant and coal pier project in Songkhla's Thepha district was a success, and that it was planning to use the "Thepha model" for other such projects in the future.

"The Thepha model involves providing information to locals and then letting them spread it among their neighbours," Egat assistant governor Pol Kongsue explained.

He said under the Thepha model, some locals were taken on educational trips and were given a chance to interact with experts. He added that in the past, Egat used to rely on its staff to share information with the locals.

"When we implemented the Thepha model, we focused on highlighting the benefits of the project and let locals consult with one another. If the locals want it, then they will have to take action," he said.

The public review of the coal-fired power plant and coal pier in Songkhla's Thepha district concluded peacefully yesterday, without any clashes.

However, a few hours before the public review was completed, 300 people gathered nearby to voice their opposition.

The opponents have said that they will seek to have the public-opinion gathering process nullified, labelling it illegitimate.

"As all public forums for the project lack legitimacy, we will push for them to be nullified," said Direk Hemnakhon, a coordinator for the Network of Songkhla-Pattani People against the Coal-Fired Power Plant.

The two-day public review was held under tight security. Songkhla Governor Thamrong Chareonkul even banned unauthorised groups from gathering around the venue a move that the opponents believe was an effort to keep out those who disagreed.

The Network of Songkhla Citizens also released a statement yesterday condemning the public-opinion gathering process.

"The process blocked out those who disagree," the statement said, adding that the public review also failed to answer questions and concerns raised at the public-scoping stage the first of three forums for stakeholders to make their voices heard.

The public review is the third forum, after which the environmental and health impact assessment (EHIA) will enter its final stage. According to the Egat, its consulting firm will compile the EHIA and submit it for relevant authorities including the National Environment Board (NEB) to consider. "After the NEB gives the green light, we will ask the Cabinet for a final approval," a statement from Egat said yesterday.

The statement also said that as many as 12,000 stakeholders had attended the public-review stage.

"On behalf of Egat, I would like to thank all stakeholders for their interest and participation," Pol said.

The Network of Songkhla Citizens claims that free rice, T-shirts and other incentives were provided in order to attract support for the project. Opponents are worried that the project will hurt the environment and local way of life. Supporters, however, believe that Egat will take measures to minimise any adverse impact, and that the project should go ahead for the sake of energy security. "The project will boost the living standards for locals," Central Islamic Council of Thailand secretary-general Pol Maj-General Surin Palarae said as he opened the public review for the second day.

Source URL: The Nation