Thailand’s military-controlled government has temporarily halted several coal power plants in the country after environmentalist groups complained they would hurt the region’s tourist industry.
The junta’s decision to kowtow to environmentalist protesters is unusual considering the government’s violent crackdown on activism. The plant is being placed on the backburners until after regulators conduct an Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA).
“We informed the prime minister and he ordered the entire EHIA process to be improved and the public participation to be reset,” Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a Thai spokesman, told reporters this weekend.
The 800-megawatt coal power plant in Krabi was approved on Friday – the decision was reversed after five protest leaders were arrested. The government said it understood their concerns related to the power plant and decided to implement the environmental assessment.
Thai’s decision to bend to activist’s whims is strange, especially considering the government’s history subjugating journalists and activists. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told journalists in 2015, a year after the 2014 military coup, that he would “probably just execute” reporters who fail to report the truth.
Human Rights Watch reported in 2015 that “the junta has detained more than 300 politicians, activists, journalists, and people that it accused of supporting the deposed government, disrespecting the monarchy, or being involved in anti-coup protests and activities.”
It does so under a Thai martial law that dates back to 1914.
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