Thursday, May 07, 2015

Myanmar: Villagers Voice Opposition to Coal-Fired Power Plant in Western Myanmar

Copyright © 1998-2014, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

Villagers Voice Opposition to Coal-Fired Power Plant in Western Myanmar

Hundreds of residents from a township in western Myanmar expressed their opposition to a Korean coal-fired power plant when they met on Wednesday with officials from companies involved in the project

The U.S. $2.5 billion project, which will be built on 600 acres of land in Kyaukphyu township in Rakhine state, is a joint venture of MCM Energy, Daewoo Company and Myanmar’s Ministry of Electric Power.

Company officials told the 400 residents who attended the meeting that they would benefit from the coal-fired power plant because it would help develop the region and provide electricity not only to towns and cities, but also to villages, Ko Kyaw Win, a local resident, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

They also said they would build roads, bridges and schools in the township, she said.

But most local residents oppose the project because they are concerned about environmental damage and the affects that the coal-fired power plant will have on their health.

Company officials said that they would build the project with the latest technology to reduce emissions, but residents said they did not believe them.

Maung Maung Ohn, chief minister of Rakhine state, told attendees that the project would not be implemented if local residents did not agree to it.

Thousands protest in Taninthayi region

Residents in other parts of Myanmar are also opposed to coal-fired power plant projects.

On Tuesday, more than 7,000 people from Andin Village of Yay Township in southern Myanmar’s Taninthayi Region protested an agreement between Thailand-based Toyo-Thai Company and Myanmar’s Ministry of Electric Power to start building such a power plant next year.

The two parties signed a memorandum of understanding on the plant’s construction on March 23, 2013, and a memorandum of agreement last month. They will invest U.S. $2.7 billion, in the 1,280-megawatt plant, which is scheduled for completion in 2020.

But the government agreed to do the project without asking local residents’ opinions, said a villager named Thein Soe.

“Local residents don’t agree to do this project because there are just a few positive things, but many negative things that will come from the coal,” he said.

Aung Naing Oo, a lawmaker from the All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP), noted that President Thein Sein had said the government would respect people’s opinions, but for this project, it did not even ask for their opinion.

Aung Naing Oo held talks with protest leader Aung Lin, Naing Soe Paing of the Yay Township social service organization, and civil society leader Min Aung Htoo on the power plant project, Eleven Myanmar media group reported.

Ashin Thila, a Buddhist monk from Andin village, told RFA he opposed the project because of the likely environmental damage it would create.

“We have a lot of food from nature now, but there will not be good fruits and vegetables because of the coal-fired power plant,” he said.

Reported by Waiyan Moe Myint, Kyaw Lwin Oo and Zarni Tun of RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.