RotaryPeaceChula

Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Approach to Krabi

We’re more than a third of the way through our programme now, and I’m approaching this field study in Krabi with a lot of interest.  It is certainly a complex conflict with multiple actors and perspectives.

Firstly there are the local people who, from what I know of the issue so far, are by no means united in their position about the proposed building of a coal power plant in their area. The ‘locals’ are engaged in livelihoods such as fishing, tourism, the production of palm oil and rubber production.  Some locals, such as those engaged in the tourism industry, have a vested interest in maintaining Krabi’s clean, green image.  They are concerned that the construction of a large processing plant with potential to produce carbon emissions and heavy metal waste products, will be a disincentive to tourists. The locals engaged in the fishing industry are concerned about the possible effects on the marine environment if a coal ship were to sink in the bay.  Other locals are convinced that their region, and Thailand as a whole, needs the more ‘secure’ energy production that a coal fired power station can provide.

Supporting the position of those local people who would prefer a renewable electricity generating option is the Healthy Public Policy Foundation .  This organization has looked at the feasibility of various renewable energy options for the Krabi area, and are promoting the possibility of one hundred per cent renewable energy for Krabi, and for the whole of Thailand.  This seems to be a very ambitious target!

The second primary actor in this conflict is EGAT (the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand) who are charged with the responsibility of providing for Thailand’s increasing energy needs.  EGAT is currently engaged in completing a second Environmental Impact Assessment to go with their coal plant proposal.  This second report has been deemed necessary due to two significant demonstrations from local Krabi people opposed to the project.  While EGAT is a government enterprise under the Thai Government’s Ministry of Energy, it is primarily concerned with carrying out energy projects, rather than forming policy about the nature of energy projects.

On a higher political level is the National Energy Policy Council, chaired by the Prime Minister and composed of other government officials.  At present their policy is around providing ‘firm’ means of electricity generation which will meet their country’s needs.  At present Thailand imports around ten per cent of its electricity from energy generation projects in Laos.

The Thai Government has ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement and has a stated policy of increasing its percentage of renewable energy production from the current 5-7 per cent, up to 25 per cent by 2035.  One might well ask that with such a policy, why are the government not pursuing a renewable energy option in this instance?

During our briefing before this field trip we met representatives from EGAT, NPDPC, and an economist from a university.  Ajarn Chol (the Economist) suggested that we keep relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in mind as we approach this conflict.  I am interested in doing this, particularly looking at how the coal power plant proposal stacks up against the targets of

  • Sustainability
  • Energy efficiency
  • Developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

Out of all of these SDG targets, I would suggest that the last two mentioned here are going to be very important in order to ensure a decision is made that will be for the common good of all concerned. Ensuring transparency in aspects of governance of large-scale projects, and allowing for fully inclusive participation in decision-making are challenges in any region or nation.  In my own home country, New Zealand, we are faced with complex situations in which dairy farmers, tourism operators and private corporations have conflicting interests.  A good cross-cutting question to ask in such situations is a fairly simple one, ‘At the end of the day, who benefits from this project?’.

Gemma Sinnott – New Zealand

Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 23

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