Bangkok Post 1 March 2006
By PIYAPORN WONGRUANG
Pact with Rangoon would be violated
Egat Plc has refused to disclose information about hydro-electric dam projects on the Salween river, as demanded by senators and environmental activists, saying it would violate an agreement with Burma. Egat says it is prohibited from revealing details of dam construction unless it receives permission from its counterpart in Burma. This is a condition of the Memorandum of Agreements (MoA) signed with Burma, Nipon Pienpucta, vice-president of Egats Hydro Power Engineering Division, told the Senates sub-committee on natural resources stability yesterday.
The panel summoned Mr Nipon to answer questions on the progress of proposed dams on the 2,800km Salween river, which forms part of the Thai-Burmese border, after receiving complaints from environmental and minority groups about the adverse impact of dam construction.
Mr Nipon also brushed aside the panels call for disclosure of the MoA, which outlines the implementation process of the joint development scheme.
Thailand and Burma in 2004 agreed to conduct a feasibility study of hydro-power dams on the Salween. Egat cited Thailands need to import electricity from neighbouring countries in order meet increasing demand.
Five potential dams were eventually identified on the Salween river, which is the last free-flowing international river in Southeast Asia.
It is expected the first dam, with 1,000-megawatt generating capacity, will be built 50km deep into Burmese territory opposite Tak province within two years, said Mr Nipon.
Egats refusal to disclose information regarding the projects raised concern in the Senate and among environmental advocates, who say that concealment impeded public participation.
Senator Tuenjai Deetes, the panels chairperson, said she would propose Egat develop mechanisms to ensure project transparency. The panel will also look into the terms of reference of the environmental impact studies, she said.
The panel, Sen Tuenjai said, fears the project will cause adverse environmental and social impacts on communities near the construction sites.
What is most worrisome, she said, is the projects impact on national security caused by mass relocations of dam-affected minority groups who live along the Thai-Burmese border.
Hannarong Yaowalers, a member of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, said the proposed dams could lead to human rights violations on both sides of the border as the dams will inundate vast areas of land now occupied by minority groups.
The issue should be addressed before the governments implement such projects, he said.