The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) recently launched the DVD release of its documentary depicting ongoing conflict surrounding a proposed coal-fired power plant project in Ann-Din Village, Parlain Region, Ye Township, Mon State.
The 38-minute documentary, entitled Touching the Fire, conducted in the Mon language and over-laid with Burmese subtitles, was conceived and planned by HURFOM’s Nai Sawor Mon and directed by Min Than Oo of the Mon Multi-Media Institute. The documentary DVD was distributed free of charge.
“The video is 38 minutes long; this includes how the ministers, Hluttaw representatives and [Toyo-Thai] Company organizes the local people. It also illustrates the opinions of locals from the area, as well as local residents who took a trip to Japan and Thailand to observe the coal power plants over there,” said Nai Sawor Mon.
Nai Sawor Mon continued that the ending of the video concludes with different views from the locals, differing opinions which could cause conflict in the area, and the community waiting for the government to put a stop to the power plant project.
Mon State Electricity Minister met with the documentary director and producer on the night of 30th January during a press conference with reporters. The Minister reportedly warned the documentary team how to avoid any mistakes, while speaking with the press.
Nai Sawor Mon stated that HURFOM produced this documentary with the objective of educating the public as to the potential negative impacts from foreign investment on their community, as well as the importance to protect the environment in Mon State for the rights of the third generation. Nai Sawor Mon continued that this foreign investment project will cause social conflicts and detrimental divisions to the unity of the community resulting from conflicting opinions from locals regarding the project, so, he says, it is necessary for the people to oppose the coal-fired power plant.
On HURFOM’s website, Nai Kasauh Mon, director of HURFOM, has identified salient issues surrounding the proposed power plant project. Nai Kasauh Mon highlighted the fact that the plans laid by the Toyo-Thai Company, a company based in Thailand with a majority shareholder of Japanese companies, to build a coal power plant with the capacity to produce 1270 megawatts of electricity has already created great concern and instability among local residents in the area.
The director noted that there has been some intensive conflict and disagreement between those opposed to the project and those who perceive they will benefit from the project. One community in opposition to the project are the nine villages along the Pa-lain mountain range. The director explained that these residents have been able to understand the negative impacts of the coal power plant from various sources, and have consistently been opposed to the project.
Burma/Myanmar is rich in natural resources, especially regarding various energy resources such as gas. There are gas power plants in the western and southern sea, in the Gulf of Mataban, as well as the Irrawaddy and Arakan coastal areas. However, the previous military government and the current government has sold the gas to Thailand and China via the Yatana, Yetagon, and Shwe gas pipeline, giving priority to foreign countries over the local people of Burma. Nai Kasauh Mon explained that the power plant will provide only a few megawatts of electricity to the local people in Mon State, while the majority of electric power will be sold to neighboring countries. Generations of local people, the director stressed, will suffer from the negative impact from the power plant.
Nai Kasauh Mon stressed that selling the country’s rich resources, instead of using them for its people and constructing power plants which will impact thousands of people socioeconomically and affect their livelihoods and environment, represents a key mistake in the government’s energy policy.
Touching the Fire demonstrates the impacts of the government’s mistaken energy policy towards the local people.
HURFOM held its documentary press conference on 31st January at the Kaung Myat Hotel in Moulmein, Mon State. About 70 people attended the press conference, including local monks, representatives from civil society organizations, community based organization, and local organizations from Ann-din Village and Ye Town; attendees represented both supporters and protesters of the proposed power plant.
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