SONGKHLA: More than 1,000 students and teachers from Islamic religious schools in the southern provinces have petitioned Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to allow them a say on community development under the government’s plan to develop an 18-billion-baht industrial estate in Chana district.
They handed in an open letter to Chana district chief Acting Maj Yutthana Chaoyuri who will forward it to the prime minister. The letter was also handed to Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) secretary-general Rear Adm Somkiat Polprayoon, and distributed to the media. The students and teachers said they were not protesting against the project, but wanted communities to have a say on it.
In the letter, the students and teachers asked the government to review the project, saying the project lacked academic information and did not include opinions from locals. The government should give all sectors, including religious leaders, teachers and students a say on the design based on academic principles and in line with international standards to ensure sustainable development, they said.
They also said the government must exclude the outcome of a July 11 public hearing because the forum was criticised for lacking transparency. It should also create a safe and impartial space be set up for residents to find a peaceful end to conflict over the project.
Before the project begins, local people must be allowed to join a process of setting the project’s goals that respond to their needs and take part in efforts to mitigate any impacts.
According to the letter, Chana district is home to the largest number of Islamic religious schools in the country, with students coming from all over. If the industrial project is not properly implemented, students and teachers stand to be affected. The letter also says local schools should take part in the design so they can produce personnel to respond to entrepreneurs’ needs.
The cabinet in May last year approved in principle the Chana model city of future industry proposed by SBPAC, expressing hope it could be a hub for future technology such as robotics, renewable energy, train-making and deep seaports. However, activists and some residents have opposed the project, raising concerns over the environmental impacts on Chana district’s marine resources, beaches, fresh air, and livelihoods.