Thai protesters win agreement for new reviews of coal plants

Thailand's energy minister told protesters Tuesday that the health and environmental impacts of two planned coal-fired power plants in the south will be reassessed impartially, an announcement the group termed a victory.

About three dozen demonstrators who had been holding a hunger strike ended their protest in the capital after Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan met with them and agreed to suspend work on the projects in the seaside provinces of Krabi and Songkhla until neutral reviews are done.

The protesters sang, cried and hugged each other as the agreement was announced.

Siri, speaking in front of the protesters, agreed to withdraw the assessments by the state enterprise Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and undertake broader reviews of whether the projects are suitable from impartial participants agreed upon by both the ministry and the protesters.

The ministry agreed not to proceed with either project if the new review finds them unsuitable. The proposed Krabi plant would generate up to 800 megawatts and the Songkhla one 2,200 megawatts of power. The areas under consideration have notable tourism and fishing industries.

Activist Roonguna Kitiyakara expressed confidence that new, fair reviews would mean a halt to the projects.

"The real victory is the reassessment of the environmental and health impacts, making sure the process is impartial, transparent and fact-based," he said "Because we all know that it is impossible, if you consider all the facts, to find these areas, like Krabi, suitable for power plants, especially coal-powered plants. Perhaps other types of power plants may be possible."