THE LAWYERS COUNCIL of Thailand has dispatched a team to follow up on the progress of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) in responding to Supreme Court-ordered measures at its controversial lignite-fuelled power plant in Lampang’s Mae Mo district.
The team initially found that Egat had paid compensation to 131 affected villagers and established a committee to consider evacuating residents living within a 5-kilometre radius of the Mae Moh coal-fired power plant.
After a 12-year court battle, the affected villagers finally claimed victory in February when the Supreme Administrative Court ordered Egat to pay compensation totalling Bt25 million, plus 7.5 per cent interest, to 131 plaintiffs, including to the families of 15 people who had died.
The court also instructed the agency to implement five measures. The measures were supposed to be completed within 90 days of the ruling, or by May 20.
The Lawyers Council’s vice president operations, Suwit Cheyubon, and the other team members met with some 400 villagers and told them that along with following up on Egat’s progress, the council would provide villagers with free legal aid.
The team listened to the problems and divided the villagers in four groups.
One group comprised villagers who were evacuated outside the 5-kilometre radius but had not received land-rights documents for their new homes. Another group consisted of those who had been evacuated to another area but had not yet received property compensation.
The two other groups are those villagers who wished to relocate outside the 5-kilometre radius, and those who were allegedly affected by other Egat operations, such as the installation of high-voltage power lines.
The five measures the agency was ordered to implement included installing an 800-metre “water curtain” at soil-disposal grounds east and west of the plant in order to reduce atmospheric dust, and establishing a working team comprising local representatives and experts to consider evacuating at-risk residents.
Another measure centres on the rehabilitation of mine pits to restore them to their natural state via landfills and to turn an area Egat had carved into a golf course and a botanical garden.
The agency was also ordered to replant a wetland area every 18 months and dredge canals to shift water towards the wetland.
The fifth measure requires Egat to transport soil properly via a belt system equipped with water sprinklers, and establish a new soil-release spot so soil particles do not affect nearby communities.
Under this last measure, Egat must set up a 50-metre buffer zone between the soil-release spot and the villagers.