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The Save Na Bon Group, which has been protesting against the construction of 2 power plants in their community, ended their hunger strike, packed their bags and left Bangkok after a government representative confirmed that their 4 demands will be met.

Na Bon villagers establish their protest site close by the Government House. (Source: Krongkaokaeng)

Green News Agency reports that the group, consisting of 15 villagers from the Na Bon District in Nakhon Si Thammarat, returned home on buses arranged by the Office of the Prime Minister on the evening of 24 December.

Prior to their departure, the villagers received confirmation that proposals they discussed with authorities on 22 December have been agreed to. According to Rieng Seekaew, the group’s advisor, the Prime Minister said that a committee will be set up to analyse the impact of the project on the community.  He also agreed to have the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) halt project construction until the analysis is complete.

An officer from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will head the committee which will also have representatives from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) and a village representative as co-secretary.

The committee will conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and review local interest in the power plants. If locals do not want to the project, construction will be abandoned. If most are receptive, a stricter Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be done in order to assure the regulation of dangerous plant emission like sulfur dioxide, lead and nitrous oxide. The ERC and local authorities will also adjust compensation for the 13 households that have already been affected by past construction.

Rieng said that the committee will be formed in January or February of next year and that the SEA will take a year to complete.  Although optimistic about the outcome, he also added that villagers need to remain vigilant for the time being.

The EnLaw Foundation, an NGO working on environmental justice issues, affirmed Rieng’s statement, posting an official letter from the PM’s office to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which states that the PM has agreed to the villagers’ four demands: to establish a committee, temporarily halt construction, conduct SEA and EIA analyses and reconsider the provision of compensation. 

The power plants are the projects of the Absolute Clean Energy Company Limited (ACE), a Thai electric power distributor that lists Pol Gen Wirachai Songmetta, a deputy commander of the Royal Thai Police, as its largest shareholder (22.43%), as of 23 December. 

Group members are concerned that the power plants will have a severe impact on their communities and surrounding environment. They also allege that the company which acquired land for the site misled villagers by telling them that it would be used to build a market.

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