Villagers storm nuclear forum

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Bangkok Post 3 November 2009

By Supapong Chaolan

SURAT THANI : Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand staff have been forced to abruptly end a forum on nuclear power plants after villagers stormed a community hall in protest at not being invited.

About 200 villagers from tambon Kantuli in Tha Chana district, viewed as one of 16 possible plant sites, yesterday berated the Egat officials and demanded they leave the area immediately.

Egat has proposed the construction of two nuclear power plants to generate a combined 2,000 megawatts between 2021 and 2022.

It sent experts equipped with drilling equipment to survey the area at tambon Kantuli, but "did not inform all villagers and landowners", protester Kalaya Maison said.

The survey team, headed by ACM Pinet Sukornwan, was invited to give details of the project to tambon and village heads at the local community hall. But the villagers were blocked from entering the hall and left standing outside with banners written in Thai and English slamming the project.

The forum was then interrupted when Boonyong Jaratjaroonrit, a former member of the council of the provincial administration organisation, rushed to the stage and grabbed a microphone to invite villagers to come inside.

The survey team's leader and Tha Chana district chief Santad na Nakhon tried to stop him by snatching back the microphone, which led to a tussle.

The protesters then broke through a flimsy line of security staff and surrounded the stage, demanding Mr Santad abort the meeting. He agreed to do so.

Mr Santad said the forum was intended to educate tambon and village heads on nuclear fuel so they could pass on correct information to other villagers.

Yesterday's protest followed an attempt by angry villagers on Friday to block the survey work by cordoning off a drill site in Ban Kuan Lay in tambon Kantuli, he said.

In September, Ms Kalaya said, the surveyors began drilling in Ban Don Talay in the same tambon, but only a small group of villagers were informed.

Slammed for not having told the people about the project, Ban Don Talay's village head decided the villagers should meet the survey team on Sept 8 for clarification on whether the project would affect the local ecology and the locals' fishing livelihoods.

"There was no clarification from the team," Ms Kalaya said. "They just showed the villagers a video presentation of nuclear power plants."

Mr Boonyong said the villagers wanted Egat to hold a national public hearing on nuclear power before going any further as well as withdrawing its surveyors from their neighbourhood.The protesters dispersed when a drilling vehicle was driven away from the village.