Local hunger strike aims to prevent power plant near popular beaches

The beaches of southern Thailand are some of the most-visited in the world, thousands of travellers flocking there every year to enjoy the pristine sands and crystalline waters. Now locals fear that could all change if plans to build an 800-megawatt coal power plant on the Andaman coast go ahead.

Krabi province, which includes the famous beach used in The Beach, relies on tourism, and the plans have sparked fierce protests from locals.

“If this power plant happens, southern Thailand will lose a lot,” said Krabi resident Akradej Chakjinda, who has been on hunger strike since July 10 to oppose the plans.

The protesters claim that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is pushing ahead with plans for the plant and a seaport to import coal before an environmental impact assessment has been completed. EGAT claims the coal plant is crucial to Thailand’s future energy security, and predicts building nine coal power plants in the south of the country within the next two decades.

“I want to emphasise that this is totally legal and we will not sign any contract with the constructor who wins the bid process until we pass the environmental assessment,” said Anuchart Palakawong Na Autthaya, head of environmental management for the project.

Krabi is one of Thailand’s major tourist draws, the Andaman coast generating over 376 billion baht (£6.9 billion) in 2014, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. It’s also home to feeding grounds for the near extinct dugongs, a marine mammal.

So far the protesters say their concerns have been ignored.