In discussing the “resolution” of the stand-off between the military junta and its “friends” protesting a proposed coal-fired power station for the south, PPT had the feeling that the junta had managed to get its political ducks in a row.
Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has denied that the junta has backed down “from the planned construction of a coal-fired power plant in Krabi but only ‘slowed down’ its implementation.” As he “explained,” the junta was “slowing it down in order to proceed…”. He said the only option was to “build the coal-fired power plant…”. Then he said that perhaps the plant will use “other fuels such as palm oil to replace coal is another topic. In any case, we must build it.”
The first suggestion we recall for palm oil-fired power station in the south came from the Democrat Party. It seemed to want two plants, one with palm oil and the other with natural gas.
On palm oil-fired power stations, read The Guardian (“the maddest energy scheme the world has seen”) and Friends of the Earth’s 2006 position paper. Denuding what remains of the southern forests, adding to the haze and planting palms all over the place is unlikely to do wonders for the environment and tourism.
Back to the General: “The government has not backed down and everything has been carried out according to procedural and legal steps…”. He seems to mean that a new environmental and health impact assessment will be completed.
As an op-ed at the Bangkok Post observes: “What is the point of having the EHIA redone when the decision that the project will go ahead has apparently been made?”
As that op-ed points out, the coal-fired plan had “not been approved by the responsible agency, the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning (ONREP).”
Further, it states that “ONREP said the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) which is in charge of the Krabi power plant project, withdrew its EHIA from consideration by the ONREP’s panel of experts two years ago.”
Despite the “health and environmental impacts study still pending, the National Energy Policy Committee (NEPC) chaired by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, however, gave the project the go-ahead last week.”
Meanwhile, “Egat has also gone ahead and awarded a contract to build the 32-billion-baht plant to a consortium of Power Construction of China and Italian-Thai Development…”.
The conclusion in the op-ed is: “If the project is pre-determined to proceed as stated by the Gen Prawit, it should be presumed that whatever the public has to say about it will not make any difference.”
We wrote about double standards but we can now see we should have discussed the political double-cross. The junta may still be in trouble with its natural political allies.
(As a footnote, we can’t help but think about Rolls Royce, Diageo, Tyco, General Cable, and more.)