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Burma, Japan and Thailand sign MoU to build Myeik power plant

Locals in Myeik Town say coal-fired power plant could damage their health and Tenasserim's pristine coastline

The Burmese government and companies based in Burma, Japan and Thailand signed a MoU on 9 October to conduct a feasibility study and an environmental and social impact assessment study (EIA/SIA) for a coal power plant the consortium is planning to build in Tenasserim Division’s Myeik City.

The MoU was signed in Naypyidaw by: Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power; Japan’s Marubeni Corporation; Burma’s company Ayar Hintha Company; and three Thai entities— privately-owned Sri Synergy Company, a member of Thailand’s state-owned PTT group called Global Power Synergy, and another Thai government-owned entity called the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (commonly known as EGAT).

The cost of building the 1,800-megawatt power plant is expected to be around US$ 3.5 billion .

Ye Min Aung, managing director of the Ayar Hintha company, said: “Our aim is to generate electricity and sell it. As of now, there is barely any electricity demand in Burma, so just 100-200 megawatts should be enough for Tenasserim Division, but five to ten years in the future even 1,800 megawatts won’t be enough,” he said.

“There will be a high demand for electricity after the national power grid is fully connected,” he added.

However, the project will only go forward if the EIA/SIA study finds no negative impacts on the environment or on the livelihoods of local people.

Ye Min Aung said that regardless of whether the project is launched, the Ayar Hintha Company will still implement its plan to buy electricity and distribute it to the region at a low price within one year’s time.

“As we are building this plant in Burma, domestic users will have priority as to electricity generated by the plant, and only surplus electricity will be sold overseas,” he said.

“At the moment, the price of electricity in the Myeik area is over 400 kyat [$0.40] per unit and we have been looking for ways to make life more convenient for the locals. Our priorities include obtaining power from Thailand and distributing it here at low prices.”

Ye Min Aung also said that a survey his company conducted among locals last year indicated that they are concerned about environmental damage and high electricity prices. The survey also revealed that local people want to have priority over electricity generated inside Burma rather than having all of the output sold to Thailand.

In January, locals held a demonstration against the project, which they say was planned without any input from residents or civil society organizations. During the demonstration, protesters expressed concern that the power plant would adversely affect the local environment, which farmers and fishermen depend on for their livelihoods.

Some protestors who spoke to DVB also said the plant wouldn’t benefit the community; rather, they said it has the potential to harm local residents and noted that a power plant constructed further south on the Andaman coast in Kawthaung Township had reportedly caused respiratory problems.