Energy has been one of the main concerns in Myanmar since the country opened up to foreign investment in 2012 and the government has been focusing on increasing production to meet the new demand. Even though some of the projects were already on the table, the government and companies are pushing to get approval for controversial hydroelectric projects and coal plants across the country. Some of these projects have followed the signature of peace deals with rebels groups , even though many of them are rejected by the ethnic groups.
One of these projects is the 1,280 MW coal plant that has been proposed in Hpa-An, the capital of Karen state, an area where the Karen National Union (KNU) and its army branch, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), have been fighting against the central Myanmar government since the 1940s. The plant was proposed after another similar project located in Inn Din, in Mon state, south of Karen state, was canceled due to the local rejection (see related conflicts, below).
In April 2017, the Kayin state government signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct a feasibility study  with the Thai construction company TTCL Public Co Ltd, a joint venture between Italian-Thai Development, which holds a 51 percent stake, and Japanese company Toyo Engineering Corporation, which holds 49 percent . According to this agreement, the plant would cover 333 hectares (825 acres) on the Thanlwin (Salween) River, about 20 miles north of downtown Hpa-An, and would cost US$2.8 billion.
The project raised concerns among the local populations, that have rejected the plant . Thus, in June 2017, 42 Kayin State-based civil society organisations and 130 other CSOs issued a statement opposing the project . In October 2017, the Karen state government approved the project and signed a joint venture with TTCL . In November 2017, protesters were stopped when they tried to demonstrate against the plant .
In March 2018, the central government in Naypyidaw announced that they would not support the coal plant . However, the state government didn’t follow, raising concerns among the local communities that they would not respect the government decision  and 131 local organisations and residents signed a letter with three requests to the Union Government: to cancel all proposed and suspended coal-fired power plants, to pass a national moratorium on coal power plants, and to promote and regulate the implementation of sustainable renewable energy projects .
According to Greenpeace , the Myanmar government is planning on an alarming increase in coal plants to provide all the country’s energy needs by 2030. If all planned coal-fired power plants start to operate, Myanmar’s SO2 emissions from energy use would be projected to increase 7-fold, and NO2 to triple, the organization says in a report released on the issue. The report also points out that Myanmar’s coal power plant emissions would be responsible for a total of 7,100 premature deaths each year, or 280,000 premature deaths if these plants operate for 40 years.