Burma: Myeik Residents Protest Coal Plant Plans

1.-Myeik

by Naw Noreen / DVB

About 100 locals staged a protest in Myeik on Sunday against a plan to build a coal power plant in the area without consulting civic groups or seeking public opinion.

A spokesperson for the protestors, who mostly came from the village of Thamote, said they wanted to voice their concerns over plans to construct a 50-megawatt coal plant in the neighbouring village of Lutlut, about 17 miles northeast of Myeik town in Burma’s southernmost province of Tenasserim Division.

The protestors contend that the plant will offer nothing of interest to the local population, but instead will adversely affect their health and livelihoods.

Some protestors who spoke to DVB cited a similar case further south on the Andaman coast in Kawthaung Township where local residents reportedly suffered respiratory problems after an 8MW coal plant became operational last year despite concerns expressed earlier by residents in the town and in the neighbouring Thai border town of Ranong.

“Residents in Kawthaung are already suffering from health issues from the coal plant,” said Htain Lin Aung, a protest leader from Thamote. “They are falling ill with respiratory infections and skin diseases.

“Not only that, the coal plant planned for Myeik is a 50-MW facility, much more powerful than the one in Kawthaung.”

He added that the protesting villagers had a duty to protect their livelihoods as farmers and fishermen because the coal plant would undoubtedly impact the environment.

Construction of the power plant in Lutlut is due to be completed in 2015 and is being undertaken by the Than Phyo Thu Mining Co Ltd, which also built the plant in Kawthaung.

The firm could not be reached for comment when contacted by DVB.

Locals in Myeik said they only found out about the power plant project after the Tenasserim Division Ministry of Energy revealed the plan last year.

Hundreds of protestors took to the streets in November calling for suspension of the project.

About two years ago, plans for a 4,000 MW coal plant in Tavoy, part of the Dawei Special Economic Zone, were cancelled after public protests.

With a population of just over 200,000, Myeik is home to mostly fishermen and rubber and coconut plantation workers. It is also well-known in Burma for the manufacture of shrimp paste (nga pi), a favourite condiment across the country.

Hundreds of indigenous Moken people, known as “sea gypsies”, are also based around the Myeik Archipelago which has been tipped as a future tourist Mecca because of its idyllic beaches and aquamarine waters.

Set in the Andaman Sea just north of the popular Thai resort of Phuket, the archipelago comprises 800 islands, only a fraction of which are populated.

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