Some 500 Nakhon Sawan demonstrators gathered tyres, tractors and this symbolic coffin in an effort to close the busy Nong Bua intersection and prevent the opening of a rubbish processing plant. (Post Today photo)
NAKHON SAWAN: Police on Wednesday arrested seven leaders of a protest campaign against a garbage processing plant in Nakhon Sawan province after they blocked major routes leading to the northern and northeastern regions.
Led by deputy national police chief Pol Gen Srivara Ransibhramanakul, police arrived at the scene after around 500 protesters started bringing mattresses, pillows, blankets, camping tents and kitchen utensils in preparation of building a camp at Nong Bua Intersection, a key road junction in the region.
The protesters, from Nong Bua district, started to gather on Tuesday.
They had threatened to close Highway 11 and local road No 225 to pressure the local authority into scrapping the processing plant.
The protesters grew rowdy Wednesday morning.
People brought tyres and farm tractors to close Highway 11 and caused congestion for motorists travelling north to Phichit province.
Police then asked the court to order a halt to the protest.
By noon, the Nakhon Sawan provincial court had issued a demand that protesters immediately stop assembling.
Pol Gen Srivara said police would not use violence to control them.
“We strictly follow our rules of engagement, which are based on negotiations. We do not want to see violence. Police will act as messengers and deliver villagers’ complaints to the provincial governor,” he told villagers.
With the court order, police arrested seven protesters around 2.30pm on Wednesday and laid charges against them.
They were released on bail a few hours later, after the leaders of the group showed signs of cooperation.
One of the protesters, Somchai Manakijsirisutthi, deputy mayor of Nong Bua municipality, was sacked from his post. Mr Somchai was leading the campaign.
The activists disbanded around 5.30pm in the evening after talking to the deputy national police chief.
Pol Gen Srivara pacified protesters with promises to revoke construction permits right away if the project’s development was found to be irregular.
The deputy national police chief also ordered provincial industrial officials to inspect the signatures of villagers attending the public hearing for the project, as some of them were suspected fabrications.
The campaign against the garbage processing plant, which is being developed by a private company, has been brewing since last year.
The company in 2015 planned to build a biomass plant, using bio-waste to produce energy.
Resistance began in earnest a year later when villagers learned the fuel would be made of garbage.
Protesters claimed the project is located too close to the community’s water resources and mixed agricultural land under a royal initiative project.
Construction of the plant is now almost complete.
In August, local villagers asked the Administrative Court to order a halt to the project.
They accused the local authority of approving some parts of the project even though the developer failed to arrange public hearings.