On 29th October, 2016, an event “Pharlin: Unseen in Mon Land”, in which the report “Abundance of Pharlain Natural Resources and Communities in Mon State, Myanmar” sponsored by Foundation for Ecological Recovery (TERRA) and the associates was debuted, was held in Bangkok, Thailand.
Saw Lar, an Buddhist abbot in Anndin Temple in Pharlain, said that there was a large number of Mon people who lost their residence by severe disasters and war perils, migrated to Thailand. Until the threat was recovered, they then returned home. However, some of them still stay and work in Thailand. In contrary, people in Pharlain area rarely left their community, as there are food security and fertile environment. The locals have been living peacefully until 1,280 MW Anndin coal – fired power plant project in Ye Township was introduced. For locals, it is a disaster for Mon State, the 1,440,000 – square metres power plant with 5 – kilometer pier, planned to start its operation in 2019, provoked people as they did not want it to destroy agricultural abundance and fertile environment. For many times, Mon people organized peaceful protests, and learnt to conduct community-based research.
The Mon monk said the locals were using their folk wisdoms to express the concerns of Pharlin dwellers against the coal-fired power plant.
“Although there was news report about Aung San Suu Kyi’s government suspended the power plant, private companies and authorities still kept coming to the village trying to buy lands. They arranged private as well as group meetings and proposed to buy our land, for 1.2 million MMK (approx. 34,900 THB) per acre. Recently in September, people network and members of parliament submitted a statement against the power plant. We absolutely understand that the world needs electricity, but there are plenty of clean energy options to choose. We surely accept development as long as it does not hurt us. The land of Pharlain provides so much food and water that we cannot lose it for electricity. It does not worth. I trust on Mon leaders’ effort and Mon politicians. I believe they never accept it”, he said.
The monk added, the Mons used to solely protest but at the moment they turned to utilizing their local wisdom, the strategy supported by Thai scholars and civil society. With this cooperation, they developed the report “Abundance of Pharlain Natural Resources and Communities”. He believed that both the activities and the villagers, who have the spirit of natural conservation, were all progressive, because an environmental issue is public and universal. If the environment is destroyed, it will link to other problems. If the Inn Din Power Station is built, the Mons would lose their farmland and have to move to cities to become workers.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Prapas Pintoptang from Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University said the phenomenon of the Mon’s protest against the power plant, and the report, were significant as they reflected that this region (Southeast Asia) did not survive with capital solely. Governments have tried to promote large investment, especially in infrastructures, such as dams, power plants, seaports and special economic zones. Unfortunately, the governments ignore the fact that people’s livelihoods did not depend on those factors. Only with good environment and food security, that sustain local communities and their well-being.
On a panel discussion, “Value of Natural Resource to Mon Community in Pharlain and its Research,” a Monk Non Te from Anndin Temple, one of the report’s authors, revealed that this report disclosed income of agriculturalists in different sectors, such as betel nut farming in 7 villages; Haroi Island, Anndin, Nikrer, Tamor Puei Ninu, Sai Gram and Bai Lai Sam. It was found in the survey in 2014 that all of them together earned 3 billion MMK (91 million THB) income. Moreover, the total income from all of the productions, such as seafood, processed food, fruit and etc., in Pharlain was, in average, 7,240,499,650 MMK (approx. 200 million THB) each year. More elaborate detail was stated in the report.
Monk Non Te added the process of the research was very exciting for the Mons in Pharlain, as they saw in – depth data of the region.
Mr Wirawat Theraprasart, the president of Foundation for Ecological Recovery, said when he visited Pharlain, he found many marvels of nature. For example, ecosystem in Pharlain is exceptional as there are the mangrove forest, beaches, and sea, all in the same site. This geographical characteristic perfectly maintains stability of Pharlain’s fish stock, and the one used as a main ingredient of shrimp paste. If the power plant were constructed, these fish, which live in shallow water, would be at risk when water temperature changed. Also, the way local people grow fruits in their betel nut orchards to protect soil, which additionally attracted wildlife such as the shikras. Mon people need to fight to protect them. They needed a further study to see what effects they would have if the power plant is built. He suggested that the Mons propose the government the proclamation appointing Pharlain the national natural research center or an ecovillage to suspend the power plant.
Ms Somporn Pengkham, an independent scholar, said the report indicated cooperation amongst the villagers to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) on such a mega project by themselves, while in many countries the EIA was done by experts and scholars. It is possible that Pharlain could be a model for Myanmar. This strengthened communities and the operation by presenting information via new media.
The Inn Din Power Station is a 1,280 megawatt (MW) power station by Toyo – Thai Corporation Public Company Limited, or TTCL Public Company Limited. In 2015, the company signed an investment contract to Myanmar government to develop a project of coal – fired power plant, an Ultra Super Critical (USC) power plant, and operate the plant with 2.8 billion USD budget. The company also won 30 – year concession to operate the power station, but the project was obstructed by continual disapproval from Mon residents and politicians.
This is a translation of a Thai-language news report https://transbordernews.in.th/home/?p=14943