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An artist couple joined a symbolic march from Songkhla to Bangkok demanding national energy reform from the National Council for Peace and Order yesterday, despite the arrest of 11 of their fellow activists on Wednesday. 

The couple are contemporary folk singer Suporn Wongmek or “Tud Nakhon” and writer-turned-artist Thankamol Issara.

Suporn began marching on Thursday morning on the Asia Highway in Songkhla’s Rattaphum district, joining the Partnership of Energy Reform (PER), while Thankamol followed in a car.

They planned to march to their home in Nakhon Sri Thammarat province.

“We’ve long demanded energy reform, but policy-makers never listen,” said Thankamol.

She said the aim of the walk was to bring attention to Thailand’s energy management.

“It is our right to walk on public roads. We are doing nothing wrong,” she said.

Thankamol said she had seen the difficulties faced by many people due to the high cost of living, particularly expensive petrol and cooking gas.

Thailand has energy resources in the Gulf of Thailand, and northern and northeastern regions. A concession system is in place granting investors ownership of government property in payment for energy.

PER believes the system has made the price of petroleum in Thailand too expensive due to the government’s inability to control the price.

The group has demanded a production-sharing system which would grant investors only the right to receive a share of production or revenue from the sale of oil and gas. It has also demanded a ban on coal power plants in the country.

“We understand it will take time to solve the problem, but at least we want to see some effort [put into solving the energy reform issue],” said Thankamol.

Before the couple entered Phatthalung yesterday, they were approached by police who asked them why they were marching. Police also took photos of them.

Their 11 fellow activists were arrested by the 42nd Military Circle and later detained at Senanarong Army Camp in Songkhla’s Hat Yai district.

The Bangkok Post was unable to reach them. A sign at the camp said journalists and relatives can only visit detainees with permission.

A PER source said activists who support energy reform would reconsider its tactics to avoid future arrests.

Meanwhile, the Network of Southern Academics for Society and Community Organisation said detention of the activists violated their basic human rights.

The network demanded the military protect the PER’s right to carry out its campaign, free the detainees, and stop threatening PER members.

National Human Rights Commissioner Parinya Sirisarakarn said he had warned the military of more protests once martial law is lifted.



Paritta Wangkiat
Bangkok Post
22 Aug 2014

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