By Naw Noreen
About 100 people in Tenasserim division’s Kawthaung town protested in the streets on Tuesday morning against a coal power plant that recently became operational.
The protesters led by members of the Democratic Party (Myanmar) and All-Mon Region Democracy Party held placards that read: ‘No to the Coal Power Plant’ and ‘Bring Us Sustainable Energy.’
“The coal plant is located in a residential area and all the smoke and dust coming out from it could be very harmful to the local population,” said the DPM’s Divisional Campaign Coordinator Than Htun.
“Local residents previously had sent a letter to President Thein Sein and also carried out public awareness campaigns, but the government wouldn’t respond to them anyhow so they are now staging a protest.”
According to the party official, the Than Phyo Thu Mining Company manages the eight-megawatt power plant. The facility completed its first test run in August and became fully operational on 5 October.
Previously, the plant was going to provide electricity to local residents for 200 Kyat per unit, while supplying government offices with free energy.
DPM spokesperson in Kawthaung Zaw Htet said despite the company’s promises, locals still want the plant to shut down because of the adverse affects the pollution may have on residents.
“Locals were suffering from respiratory problems due to the coal dust. They are more concerned about their health than enjoying cheap electricity,” said Zaw Htet.
The party official also noted that the protestors were granted official permission to demonstrate.
Rumours have been circulating around Kawthaung that the plant was relocated from Thailand’s Prachuap Khiri Khan after protests several years ago forced the project to be aborted.
Than Phyo Thu Co began constructing the plant in October 2010 after securing a contract with the Electric Power-1 Ministry in January of that year.
According to 2009 figures from the World Bank, 13 percent of Burma’s population has access to electricity, while a majority of the resource-rich nation’s natural gas is sold off to neighbouring countries.