Anti-dam activists picket Phuket meeting

PHUKET: Around 30 members of the Network of Thai People in eight Mekong Provinces (TPMP) travelled from the Thai northeast to Phuket to protest today (May 1) against the Xayaburi Dam, a major project to dam the giant river.

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Paritta Wangkiat

Tuesday 1 May 2012, 05:10PM

Anti-dam protestors lay siege to the Mekong River Commission meeting in Karon.

With the Mekong River Commission (MRC) holding an international conference on “transboundary river basin management” at the Mövenpick Resort in Karon from today until Thursday, the TPMP saw a chance to confront senior figures in the Thai government to call for them to pay more attention to the sustainable exploitation of the Mekong.

The Xayaburi Dam project on the Mekong river in Laos, currently under construction, is aimed at giving the impoverished country an income from electricity generation.

If completed, the dam, 810 metres long and 32 metres high, would be capable of producing 1,260 megawatts of electricity. Ninety per cent of that would be sold to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

The Xayaburi Dam is the first of 12 hydroelectric projects proposed for the Mekong River and its tributaries under a blanket vision of the river becoming “the battery of South East Asia”.

On April 17, a Thailand-based company, Chor Karnchang, signed a B51-billion contract with a Laotian company Xayaburi Power to build the dam.

Construction began in March, sparking outrage from the TPMP because the project’s environmental impact assessment has yet to be completed.

Niwat Roykeaw, a leader of the TPMP, explained that the project would have a major effect on the ecology and local communities downstream, in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

According to eco-campaigning organisation International Rivers, the dam, when complete, will result in the forcible resettlement of more than 2,100 people, directly affect the livelihoods of more than 200,000 others, and bring permanent ecological change to the river, which feeds millions of people.

Mr Niwat added that the start of construction breached the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA), which states that the nations along the Mekong River must consult the MRC before building a mega project on the river.

“The governments of four nations [along the Mekong] and the MRC must get serious about the PNPCA,” said Mr Niwat. “This project will bring conflict between nations.”

However, the CEO of the MRC, Hans Guttman, told media that although the MRC acts as a coordinator among Mekong nations, it has no power to make decisions on the dam.

The Lao government is preparing for construction of the dam, he added, but has not yet decided absolutely whether to go ahead.

“The decision depends on the Lao government,” said Mr Guttman.

The TPMP said it will watch the MRC’s reactions to events in Laos “for a period of time”.

If no “action” is taken, a TPMP spokesman said, the group will up the stakes with a blockade of the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, which spans the river between Nong Khai and Vientiane.

Related News

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Shane Worrell
Tuesday, 01 May 2012

Criticism of the controversial Xayaburi hydro dam project in northern Laos is mounting in Thailand – the country set to enjoy most of the electricity if the project is completed.

Representatives from 130 Thai civil-society organisations yesterday published a statement backing a report that outlines an alternative power plan to the 1,260-megawatt dam project on the Mekong River.

The Power Development Plan 2012, produced by Thai energy experts Chuenchom Sangasri Greacen and Dr Chris Greacen, was presented to the Thai government last week.

According to a statement by International Rivers, the report states that power from the Xayaburi dam is not needed to meet Thailand’s energy needs and calls for investment in renewable energy and other alternatives, which could reduce electricity bills by “12 per cent” by 2030.

“Thailand’s energy planning process is in a state of crisis. Persistent over-forecasting of energy demand has led to over-investment and onerous economic burdens on consumers,” Ms Greacen is quoted in the International Rivers statement. \

“This new power plan identifies barriers and offers realistic energy solutions, which will bring social, economic and environmental benefits to Thailand.”

Thai development firm Ch.­Karnchang announced on April 17 it had begun construction work on the dam on March 15.

This announcement came despite Mekong River Commission member states Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam agreeing in December that a study of the dam’s potential harm to the Mekong River and its communities must be carried out first.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at


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