BANGKOK, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Thailand will go ahead with a plan to build a coal-fired power plant in a southern tourist province, the prime minister said on Friday, despite opposition from residents and activists for more than two years.
The construction of the 800-megawatt power plant in Krabi, a province in the south known for its pristine beaches, is part of Thailand’s Power Development Plan for 2015 to 2036.
The project was shelved two years ago due to mounting opposition, but the National Energy Policy Committee gave the project the go-ahead on Friday.
“From the point of view of its value and safety, it is beneficial for the people,” said Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, junta leader and chairman of the committee.
Minister of Energy Anantaporn Kanchanarat said construction could begin next year and it could start generating power in 2021.
He also said the plant was necessary and must be built despite opposition.
“We must proceed, otherwise we will have electricity problems in future,” Anantaporn said.
A crowd of about 300 people, most from Krabi, gathered to protest against the decision outside the prime minister’s offices.
Prasitchai Nunuan, leader of the Save Andaman from Coal Network, told Reuters civilian voices were not being heard by the junta, which seized power in a 2014 coup.
“Since the coup, people’s rights are gone,” he said. “Under civilian governments, people are still able to speak up and debate. But we have none of that under military governments.”
International environmental group Greenpeace condemned the committee’s decision as “ill-advised”.
“Thailand’s decision makers have failed to recognise the global call to phase out coal and fossil fuel to help save the climate,” said Chariya Senpong, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s climate and energy campaigner. (Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Additional reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Robert Birsel)