36 networks demand release of 16 coal-fired plant protesters

Thirty-six networks of conservation and social organisations on Tuesday (Nov 28) issued a statement demanding an unconditional release of 16 leaders of the protest against the planned coal-fired power plant in Thepha district of Songkhla province.

The 16 were arrested on Monday while trying to submit a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.  They were initially charged with obstructing traffic and putting up resistance against authorities performing their duties.  They denied the charges.

The 36 networks of conservation and social organisations issued a statement calling for the 16 protest leaders to be released unconditionally.

They also called for an investigation into the use of force to disperse the protesters and for the government to scrap the plan for the construction of the coal-fired power plant in Thepha district.

The statement said the protesters walked 75 kilometres to see the prime minister in the hope to voice their grievances to the government leader, but were met with the cruel use of force regardless of the human rights principle.

Thepa coal-fired power plant protesters clashed with police in Songkhla on Nov 27.

In a related development, the National Human Rights Commission, by two commissioners Angkhana Neelapaijit and Tuanjai Deetes, issued a statement, calling for the prime minister to instruct the police to review the charges against the 16 protesters, who they said were exercising their rights as allowed by the 2017 constitution.

The NHRC calls for all concerned to solve this problem through peaceful means with respects for the human rights principle, they said.

On Tuesday morning, Gen Prayut and cabinet members arrived at the auditorium of Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya in Songkhla to attend a mobile cabinet meeting amid tight security.

Before the meeting, the prime minister did not mention about the 16 protest leaders, who are being detained at Muang district police station.

Thirawat Kwanchai, a lecturer at the law faculty of Prince of Songkla University, said what had happened was unfavourable for the government’s attempt to restore national reconciliation.

The protesters, who were villagers from Songkhla and Pattani provinces, were dispersed by the authorities with the use of force while they were only trying to submit a letter on possible effects on their communities from the coal-fired power plant, he said.