Academic activists at yesterday’s public forum in Chiangrai to discuss social and environmental impacts coming from the Mongkok lignite coal mines and a lignite-fired powerplant there across the border said Thailand could do without resorting to coal for its much needed electric power.
Supakij Nantaworakarn from Bangkok-based Healthy Public Policy Foundation argued, “With ample and practical options to use power from the sun, wind and biogas, Thailand doesn’t need Mongkok.”
If the projects were allowed to go on, he said, the people on this side of the border can expect 1,500 tons of dust, 102 kg of mercury, 29 million tons of greenhouse gas and megatons of sulpha dioxide and nitrogen dioxide each year destroying their environment especially the Kok river, which originates in Burma’s Shan State but flows through Thailand’s Mae Ai and Chiangrai’s Mueng districts before draining itself in the Mekong.
“We won’t drink mineral water (from the Kok)” is the slogan of the public campaign led by elected local administrative organizations.
Saraburi Coal, a subsidiary of Thailand’s construction giant Italian-Thai, received a 30 year concession in 2008 from Burma to mine for lignite in Mongkok subtownship of Monghsat township, opposite Chiangrai’s Mae Fa Luang district. It later received approval to develop coal-fired power plant in Mongkok for export of 369 MW of electricity to Thailand.
“Let us not celebrate the 750th anniversary of the founding of Chiangrai (in 2012) by drinking mineral water (from the Kok),” said Montree Chantawong, known environmentalist, after explaining how mercury would seep through the earth to wells used by the communities.
He was supported by Dr Kan Thongkaem na Ayuddhaya from Chiangrai’s Prachanukhroa Hospital.
The public meeting held at Chiangrai’s Wat Jed Yod temple was presided by Ms Tuenjai Deetes, another known environmentalist and politician.
More than a thousand people at the project site have been removed by military authorities after giving them 20,000 kyat ($25) per acre for their land. Villagers say it would take 3 years to develop a new paddy field. “Elections have brought us nothing,” complained a farmer who, like many others, has decided to seek his future in Thailand.
The Thai campaign against the project began in July 2009 when a group of Thai villagers on the border wrote a complaint letter to the Thai National Human Rights Commission and Thai Lawyers’ Council. A year later it was joined up by community leaders across Chiangrai who protested against the project.