|In Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, luxury shopping is a way of life. The city’s central Sukhumvit Road boasts more than half a dozen luxury retail centers in one short three-mile stretch. At EmQuartier, the district’s newest high-end mall which opened March 27, you can shop at Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Prada and likely any other high-fashion brand you can think of.
But all this luxury comes with a price.
According to a recent Quartz article, the air conditioning systems at Bangkok’s malls are consuming energy at an immense rate; keeping shoppers cool in one of the world’s hottest big cities isn’t easy. The Siam Paragon mall alone consumes more than twice the energy as Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, which is home to 25,000 people. It is probably safe to say that this mall isn’t changing the filters on its air conditioners every 90 days, as recommended by professionals.
On April 21, Thailand’s power consumption hit a record level of 27,139 megawatts. Deputy Energy Permanent Secretary Tawarath Sutabutr said the new record is a result of both the country’s persistently brutal heat and the growth of its shopping malls, Thailand’s The Nation reported.
“Primarily, the power consumption increased due to air-conditioners,” Sutabutr said.
With natural gas in short supply, Thailand increasingly has to rely on electricity from environmentally-damaging dams along the Lower Mekong River, along with coal-fired power plants.
Yet in Thailand, becoming an activist to protest against these environmentally-harmful energy practices isn’t safe — in some cases, it can even cost you your life.
According to Al Jazeera, 16 Thai environmentalists have been murdered between 2002 and 2013, most likely by hit men linked to local business leaders keen on protecting their interests.
Jintana Kaewkao, a charismatic environmental activist who famously blocked the construction of major coal-fired power plant in the small fishing village of Ban Krut a decade ago, still has to be escorted by armed police officers wherever she goes. Armed assailants have shot at her house four times over the last 10 years.
“I’m lucky not to be dead,” Kaewkao told Al Jazeera.
Regardless of what environmentalist do, it seems the Thai government is showing no signs of pursuing alternate energy sources to fuel its grotesque appetite for electric power — which is why Kaewkao and her fellow activists remain vigilant for any efforts to re-introduce the abandoned Ban Krut power plant project.
“Despite environmental concerns or issues caused by coal-fired power, the [Thai energy authority] is considering increasing coal-fired generation as a means to reduce dependency on natural gas imports for electricity generation,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration wrote in a November analysis.