Protesters to rally at dam builder's HQ

Bangkok Post 20 April 2012

By Apinya Wipatayotin

People living in eight provinces along the Mekong River will rally at Ch Karnchang Plc next week to protest against the construction of the Xayaburi hydropower dam on the international waterway.

Somkiat Khaunchiangsa, a coordinator of the Northern Mekong River Network, announced the planned protest yesterday after Ch Karnchang, the dam developer, revealed that construction of the controversial project in Laos had begun on March 15. It said it expects to finish the 51.8 billion baht project in eight years.

Xayaburi is the first of 11 planned for the lower Mekong with about 95% of the electricity being sold to Thailand. Villagers who depend on the Mekong River fear the dam will devastate the river's ecology and their livelihoods.

Mr Somkiat said the villagers will gather at the company's headquarters in Bangkok next Tuesday to coincide with a company shareholders' meeting.

The villagers want to explain to Ch Karnchang's shareholders how the project will destroy people's livelihoods.

"It seems the company doesn't care about the impacts the dam could have on over 60 million people who depend on the Mekong," Mr Somkiat said.

Pianporn Deetes, Thailand's campaign coordinator for the International Rivers environmental group, said the start of construction was in breach of an agreement made by the four lower Mekong countries which resolved last year to conduct further studies on the ecological impacts of the dam.

Last December, the Mekong River Commission, which consists of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, agreed further study on the impacts of Mekong mainstream development will be conducted. But there was no consensus on whether the project should be suspended.

Ms Pianporn said people who might be affected by the dam are preparing to lodge a complaint with the Administrative Court against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand over its proposed purchase of electricity from the dam.

Meanwhile, a source from the Department of Water Resources said the government would forward concerns over possible impacts of the dam to the Ch Karnchang and asked the firm to come up with mitigation measures.