‘No coal, no Toyo-Thai’: Mon villagers rally against plant
Myanmar Times, 06 May 2015
A joint project to build coal-fired power stations involving the Union government and a foreign investor has divided local residents in Mon State. Yesterday about 6000 villagers gathered to protest against the project in Ann Din village, about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the town of Ye.
The Thai-based Japanese company Toyo-Thai signed an agreement with the government on April 9 to develop the power station amid accusations from locals of unfair dealing.
Under the agreement with the Department of Hydropower Planning, Toyo-Thai will develop two 640-megawatt coal-fired power plants with a total investment of US$2.8 billion, according to a company statement.
Ko Min Aung Htoo, an environmentalist with the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA), said the company and the government have not been “open” about their project with local people.
“The monks are leading public opinion against it,” he said.
Yesterday, the road to Ann Dinn was lined with houses displaying “No Coal” placards, skull-and-crossbones posters and demands for the protection of the environment. At the rally, participants held similar signs, and shouted, “No coal, no Toyo-Thai – protect our natural environment.”
Though Ye township police issued a permit for the demonstration, residents said protesters from two local villages, Nwe and Nga Mya, had been prevented from attending by a local pro-government militia group.
Mon ethnic armed groups are also said to support the local people and reportedly took part in the protest. Mon political parties, the National League for Democracy and civil society in Ye township also joined the demonstration.
U Aung Naing Oo, the state MP for Chaungzon township, said the Mon State parliament had approved a report he had submitted opposing the project on April 8, the day before the agreement was signed in Nay Pyi Taw.
“The government should listen to the people. They don’t want the coal project in their area,” he said.
U Aung Naing Win said the Yangon-based Win Yaung Chi Oo company, apparently on behalf of Toyo-Thai, had collected 6000 signatures from residents in support of the project. Win Yaung Chi Oo had bought 500 acres of land near Ann Din village for the project, he said.
“They told the residents when they bought the land that it would be used for fish and prawn ponds, but later they announced they had made an alliance with Toyo-Thai. I think that is dishonest,” he said.
The Myanmar Times attempted to contact Daw Htay Win, the director of Win Yaung Chi Oo, without success yesterday.
U Kyaw Thu, the secretary of Kyon Laung village NLD branch, accused both the government and the company of lacking transparency. “I understand that the project might provide some benefits for local people, but we’re concerned about the possible side effects,” he said.
Ye township residents have long complained about the high cost of electricity locally. In the absence of a government power line, private companies charge up to K600 a kilowatt hour, about 10 times the rate from the national grid.
But U Kyaw Thu said the government needed to find a “better way” of providing electricity. “The power plant could pollute soil, air and water in our region,” he said.