Mekong villagers take Egat to court to stop Xayaburi deal

Bangkok Post 15 July 2012

By Apinya Wipatayotin

Mekong villagers will file complaints in court against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and three other state-owned agencies over the controversial Xayaburi Dam project in Laos.

The villagers from the Network of People in Eight Mekong Provinces will ask the Administrative Court on July 23 to revoke the power purchasing agreement between Egat and the dam developer.

Egat signed the power purchase agreement with Xayaburi Power, which is 30% owned by Ch Karnchang Plc, in October last year. It will buy 95% of the electricity produced by the dam.

Itthipol Kamsul, a key member of the network, said the Xayaburi project would have an immense environmental and social impact on the Mekong river and millions of people who rely on it.

Egat, as the major power purchaser, must be responsible for the damage that the dam may cause, Mr Itthipol said.

"We will be severely affected by the dam project. We have made several protests against this dam, but our petitions have fallen on deaf ears and Egat will not stop the power purchasing deal," he said.

"So, we need to seek justice from the Administrative Court. We will ask the court to abolish the power purchasing agreement with Xayaburi Dam."

The network will also file complaints against the energy and natural resources and environment ministries and the National Energy Policy Council.

The three agencies, he claimed, failed to instruct Egat to hold public consultations and prior notification before signing the power purchase agreement.

They will also ask the court to order the suspension of loans granted to Ch Karnchang by commercial banks.

Pianporn Deetes, a campaigner with the Save the Mekong Coalition, said the lawsuit against Egat is a significant step that could lead to the project being halted.

If the court finds the state agencies guilty and nullifies the power purchase agreement, she believed the project would come to a halt because there would be no major electricity buyer.

Teerapong Pomun, director of Living River Siam, an ally of the network, said construction of the Xayaburi Dam was continuing even though the Lao government had made an announcement that it would suspend the project pending a study into the environmental and social impacts. "They are working day and night to complete the project," he said. "A temporary office has been set up at the dam site, while one village has already been relocated from the site to pave the way for construction."