Activists urge end to power deal

Bangkok Post 1 August 2012

By Apinya Wipatayotin

Cambodian activists have urged Bangkok and Vientiane to scrap their agreement for Thailand to purchase power produced by the Xayaburi dam in Laos.

They have also asked the two countries to order Ch Karnchang to stop all construction activities at the site until a study of the dam's impact on the environment is completed.

The Rivers Coalition in Cambodia (RCC) made the demands in a letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dated July 27.

Another letter was also sent to Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong.

The alliance of civil society organisations, which works to protect and restore river ecosystems, said the leaders should wait for the results of the Mekong River Commission study.

The study will examine the trans-boundary impact of the Mekong mainstream dams, including their impact on communities along the river from Laos to Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have agreed in principle for further consultation meetings among the riparian countries, but the meetings have not been scheduled.

"We urge the Thai prime minister to stop this project by cancelling the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and to order Ch Karnchang to stop all construction until further studies are conducted," the letter said.

"We urge the Thai and Lao governments to respect the 1995 Mekong Agreement for full public consultation, especially for those living on the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap River."

The letter followed conflicting signals made by the two government leaders.

Ms Yingluck said during her visit to Cambodia last month that construction will not take place until the completion of the study.

But on July 16-17, the Lao government organised a field visit to the dam site and found that advanced construction activities were underway.

In October 2011, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand signed a PPA with Xayaburi Power Co to import about 95% of the electricity generated by the dam.

The activist group also raised questions about the transparency of the Lao government's role in the project as it had hired a World Bank-blacklisted company to conduct a compliance review.

Cambodians have raised concerns about the dam before. On Dec 3 last year, Cambodian community representatives sent a letter to Ms Yingluck about the project.

In March, the Civil Society Organisations in Asean issued a joint statement calling for cancellation of the dam.

They also collected signatures to stop the building of the dam during the Peace Walk Campaign in Kampong Cham province in Cambodia.

Pianporn Deetes of International Rivers, a US-based non-governmental organisation, said Thailand should show it is a sincere neighbour by prioritising the concerns of others instead of attempting to benefit from their pain.