Thursday, June 25, 2015

6,000 residents of Mon State say “No!” to Japanese Coal-fired Power Plant

translation of Mekong Watch Japanese blog post

In response to the rallying cry of “Coal!”, approximately 6,000 people shouted out, “No!” Holding signs saying “No Coal”, their voices grew increasingly loud.

One morning in early May, I found myself surrounded by thousands of villagers protesting the planned coal-fire power plant in Inn Din village of Mon State’s Ye Township. Many wore traditional Mon attire, making a strong show of solidarity.

At present, Toyo Engineering Corporation’s Thai affiliate company, TTCL (formerly Toyo-Thai Corporation) is planning to build a coal fired power station (640 megawatts x 2 units). Studies began in 2015, and in April 2015, TTCL and Burma’s Ministry of Electric power signed a Memorandum of Agreement. TTCL has announced on its website and at press conferences that construction will begin in 2016.

Since TTCL held its first public hearing in Inn Din in April 2014, however, residents have made it consistently clear that they are against this project. They protest because they feel that they have not received enough information and they are worried that they will lose their means of livelihood.

Residents worked with a Thai NGO to do their own livelihood survey, and some of the survey results have been posted in the village in both Mon and Burmese. According to their survey results, the total income earned by the village through farming (betel trees, rice, etc) and fishing is far greater than the amount that TTCL has promised in CSR.  It is clear that they are very concerned about maintaining their means of livelihood.

The 2-hour demonstration was concluded by a monk representing the village.

“Our goal is not to show solidarity. Our goal is to completely stop this project. This is why we must continue our solidarity. Our community has a long history, and this is not the first time we have faced a challenge like this. We must overcome this challenge too.”

The 6,000 people listened intently, in spite of the intense morning sun of the hot, dry season.

In December 2014, a few members of the community and Burmese government officials were invited by companies to visit coal fired power plants in Japan, and this is one way they are trying to divide the community.  The trip was to show that “Japanese coal fired technology is clean, so there will be no problem.”

In addition, Burmese police were deployed around the 6,000 demonstrators, and a few days later, Burmese military stationed near the village were seen patrolling the village, thus creating silent pressure and making it clear to residents that they were being observed.

According to media, in addition to Toyo Engineering Corporation’s involvement, IHI and Toshiba will receive orders for equipment, and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and Mitsui Sumitomo Bank are considering financing the project. In this way, the project’s connection with Japan is strong. We must support the community that is standing up to resist pressure from corporations, military and police.

We want to begin activities to support the community and ensure that they are not fragmented, that their opinions and concerns are respected, and that their livelihood is not destroyed.

Written by Aponte
(translated from Japanese)