Songkhla, Satun locals urge rail halt

About 20 residents from southern communities affected by the planned Songkhla-Satun Land Bridge Project handed a petition Thursday to the National Environment Board (NEB) asking it suspend its consideration of a rail freight transport project, a part of the proposed Land Bridge scheme.

Somboon Khamheng, a coordinator of the People's Network for Natural Resources and Environment Protection in Songkhla and Satun, who led the residents, said they oppose the cargo railway transport project linking the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea because it was initiated without any local consultation or participation.

"We have received very little information despite the fact that we are living in communities that will be affected by land expropriation resulting from the project."

He led the residents to the NEB on Thursday to submit the petition after they found out the board was set to consider an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the cargo railway transport project on Aug 1.

"The EIA is also being conducted without the people's say," he said, adding that if it is approved, it will become the first project to be built under the Land Bridge scheme.

On Feb 26, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep), acting as NEB secretary, approved the EIA for the 142km railway freight project linking the second Songkhla Deep-sea Port on the Gulf of Thailand with the Pak Bara Deep-sea Port in Satun on the Andaman Sea. Of that, a 4.5km stretch of line linking the Pak Bara Deep-sea Port will be along the coast while the rest will pass through national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, Mr Somboon said.

"If the line is actually built, it will pose a substantial threat to the environment and natural resources, especially marine sites that are a significant source of income for people in Satun," he said.

Jaena Wattanaphan, 58, from Ban Ta Malai in Satun's Langu district, said around 200 families in her village will have to be moved if the project is approved and that there have been no public hearings.

Ausadaporn Kraipanond, Onep deputy chief, said she would submit the petition to the board.

Source URL: Bangkok Post