Protesters shut down public energy hearing at Thailand hotel

How many protesters does it take to stop a public hearing? About 200, if a fracas at Bangkok’s Siam City hotel is any indication. Thailand expects its power needs to more than double by 2021, and officials are scrambling to approve a plan for feeding the beast. Faced with the need to add generating capacity of some 32,000 megawatts, the Energy Ministry has outlined two scenarios that use a combination of coal and natural gas, and a third that adds nuclear power to the mix for the first time. The plans are unpopular with some residents of the France-sized country; a group of villagers traveled 190 miles from Prachuab Khirikhan province to voice their disapproval. “You build, we burn,” they chanted, and the protest leader promised, “Whenever there is a hearing, we all will go.” Similar protests in 2002 cancelled plans for two coal-powered plants in the province. But this time it was hotel staffers, not officials, who halted the hearing, worried that the crowd was keeping customers away.