Over 2,000 people protest against coal-powered factory in Mon State

Mon State residents protest over a coal-power cement on July 21. (Photo – MNA) Mon State residents protest over a coal-power cement on July 21. (Photo – MNA)

Over 2,000 people gathered in Mon State’s capital on July 21 to protest a coal-fired cement plant.

Local residents have been objecting to the Kyaikmaraw township factory’s use of coal since last year. However, the US$400 million Mawlamyine Cement Limited factory opened in June despite the locals’ concerns that pollution could cause public health and environmental problems.

The factory uses 40-megawatts from a coal-fired power plant and nine-megawatts produced from a waste heat generator.

Protesters expressed frustration last week that their efforts have so far failed to rouse a government response.

“We have held public talks. We held a praying ceremony in Kyaikmaraw. We held a much bigger protest in Kawt Dun Kawt Pa Naw. But we haven’t received any effective response up to now,” said protest leader Nai Ye Zaw.

He added that the residents aren’t asking to shut down the factory, they just want it to use an alternative, cleaner energy source.

Around 800 residents from the Pyar Taung area held a praying ceremony against the use of coal-power last August. Then in February, over 2,500 residents took part in a protest in Kawt Pa Naw Village.

At the July 21 demonstration, the protesters shouted slogans against the coal-fired power plant and called for the protection of natural resources, cultural heritage and rivers and streams, and demanded a reduction in rock mining.

Nai Shwe Win, a demonstrator from Mei Ka Yo Village in Kyaikmaraw township, said none of the demands repeatedly made by the protestors have been met, with the government doing little to ease their fears.

After the protest in February, the villagers attempted to negotiate with the Mon State Hluttaw. But when the factory came online regardless of the talks, the protesters rolled out the picket line once again.  

Nai Shwe Win added that the movement will continue the fight to stop coal from being used, escalating their actions until they can elicit a response.

Local fishermen also complained that the ships transporting coal for the plant are scaring fish and prawns away from the Attaran River.

The Mawlamyine Cement Limited factory is a joint venture between Thai firm Siam Cement Group and Pacific Link Cement Industries.