More power plant project protesters face arrests

Songkhla provincial police are to seek court warrants for the arrest of over 100 protesters against the Thepha coal-fired power plant project on charges of traffic disruption and obstruction of the performance of duty of the police, said Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the deputy national police chief, today (Nov 28).

Police yesterday arrested 16 protest leaders after over 100 protesters tried to breach police cordon to submit their petition to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who was scheduled to visit Kao Seng fishing community in Songkhla’s Muang district during a mobile cabinet meeting trip.

The 16 core members of the protest group were today taken from their detention cells at the Muang district police station to the provincial court for further detention on charges of obstructing police in their performance of duty, assault and carrying weapons.

The court approved detention of the 16 protesters, but one of them, who is a 16-year-old youth, was released on a 9,000-baht bail. The fifteen protesters are sent to Songkhla Central Prison for detention.

Prasitthichai Nunual, a core leader of the Andaman Conservation Network, who went to see the 16 detainees to give them moral support said that the police had overacted by filing excessive charges against them.

Starting on Nov 24, the protesters marched from the project site in Tambon Pak Bang, Thepha district to Muang district of Songkhla covering a distance of 75 kilometres just to submit their petition to the prime minister.  They have been protesting against the project for years.

On Nov 25, the second day of their march, the police informed the protesters of a formal request from Pol Maj-Gen Preeda Piamvaree, the provincial police chief, for them to disperse, claiming that they had not sought permission for their public gathering from the authorities 24 hours in advance.  But the protesters brushed aside the request and continued with their march.

On Monday, Anusorn Tanchotikul, the Muang district chief officer and police met with the protester leaders and repeated the request for them to disperse, but to no avail. The protesters made their way to the back of Songkhla Rajabhat University which is a short distance from their destination – Kao Seng fishing community.

About 60 police and volunteers were mobilized to form a cordon to block the protesters from marching to Kao Seng fishing community, resulting to a confrontation followed by a scuffle.  Sixteen core leaders of the protest were then nabbed by the police.