Mon State residents to protest coal plants

Current view of Pyar Taung area (Photo – MNA) Current view of Pyar Taung area (Photo – MNA)

Mon State residents are preparing to roll out the picket lines over plans to build a new coal-fired power plant.

Around 2,000 protestors are planning on marching from Myoma Bridge to the Mon State government offices in Mawlamyine on July 21, according to protest leader Nai Aye Zaw. The protesters will then hold a public discussion in the Than Lwin Garden.

“We heard about the plan to build coal-fired power plants in Mon and Kayin [Karen] states. The Kayin [State] Chief Minister has warmly welcomed this. But we believe we need to protest this plan in advance,” he said.

A joint Thai-Japanese engineering firm, Toyo Thai Corporation Public Company Limited, plans to build two 1280-Megawatt coal-fired power plants, one in Mon State, the other in Kayin State, each projected to cost US$3 million. The Mon State project is reportedly anticipated to break ground later this year, while the Kayin plant is still under study.

Both plants have sparked concern among local residents and environmental conservation groups, with concerns aired about health hazards caused by smoke and particulate matter.

Burning fossil fuels like coal is the single largest contributor to the world's carbon emissions. As a developing nation with vast power deficits, Myanmar produces among the lowest carbon emissions in the world, which the World Bank measured at 0.24 metric tons per capita – by comparison, Thailand produces 4.49 tons per capita.

The July 21 protest will also involve a demonstration against the use of coal at the Mawlamyine Cement Limited factory. Local residents say letters have been submitted to the President’s Office, the Mon State Chief Minister’s Office and the state hluttaw requesting the factory be barred from using coal, but nothing has come of their petitions.

Pyar Taung area, Kyaikmaraw township residents say the factory started commercial production using coal power this past April.

“We have held several protests. We have submitted our demands several times. It’s been over a year now but there haven’t been any developments in response to our demands. Now the local residents are getting worried. For example, they are afraid of drinking the water from the wells and lakes so they have to buy purified water. That’s why we are protesting again,” said Nai Mis, a local resident of Kun Ngan Village from Pyar Taung area.