Vows Satun project will finally go ahead
Pak Bara is known for its fabulous beaches, and as a kickoff point for trips to lesser known Andaman Islands, but Transport Minister Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong says he needs a deepwater port here. (Photo courtesy Tourism Authority of Thailand)
Transport Minister Prajin Juntong has asked the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning to speed up a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) report on the Pak Bara deep seaport project that was first mooted more than two decades ago.
ACM Prajin insisted the government will go ahead with the long-waited project which aims to boost the economy and tourism in Satun province.
He was speaking Thursday at a meeting attended by senior officials to find ways to overcome environmentalist and public opposition to the proposed deep seaport.
ACM Prajin said the ministry has approved a budget of 50 million baht for the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning to conduct an SEA study for the Pak Bara project that includes the construction of roads, port facilities and railway lines.
The study is expected to be submitted to the Transport Ministry for consideration by April next year.
The Pak Bara deep seaport, to be located in Satun province on the Andaman coast, will be linked to a port in Songkhla on the Gulf of Thailand.
The port will be capable of accommodating large container ships and supertankers from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
It will also mean many vessels will not have to sail through the Malacca Straits, notorious for pirate attacks, to reach deep seaports at Laem Chabang or Bangkok, the transport minister said. Locals and environmentalists oppose the Pak Bara project.
They say it would harm marine ecology in one of Thailand’s few remaining marine paradises, destroy the livelihoods of locals in Satun and damage the flourishing tourism industry.
The Pak Bara project was initiated in 1997 and passed an environmental impact assessment in 2007.
At Thursday’s meeting, ACM Prajin told Chula Sukmanop, head of the Marine Department, to review the proposed plan and come up with several options outlining the pros and cons for each one.
The revised plan should also feature social and security impact assessments in addition to the environmental protection study, he added. He said he wants the revised plan for the port to be submitted by April next year.
Officials assigned to work on the revised plan should forward reports on the project’s security and social impact assessments to the National Security Council and the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board for consideration, ACM Prajin said.
A budget of 120 million baht will also be allocated for an environmental health impact assessment (EHIA), which will start in August this year, the minister said.
ACM Prajin also ordered the Marine Department to make sure residents are aware of what the province would gain from the project to create a better understanding. No word was said about how local input would be sought, if at all.
PM’s Office Minister Suwapan Tanyuwattana told the Bangkok Post that his secretary would visit Satun Friday.
He denied the visit would focus on promoting Pak Bara. “The visit is part of his duty to inspect the five southernmost provinces including Satun,” he said.