Dam deal may need House okay

Key Issues: 

Bangkok Post 13 March 2006

By PIYAPORN WONGRUANG 

A contract to build a dam on the Salween river between the Egat and the Burmese government may require approval from parliament, senators said.

Panas Tasaneeyanond, a senator for Tak, said because the deal was counter-signed by the Burmese government, it should be considered a government to government contract and scrutinised by parliament, as stipulated by the constitution.

At the same time, Senator Thongbai Thongpao said parliament has the power to stop the dam project after scrutinising it.

Earlier, a senate panel on foreign affairs said the dam project needed consent from parliament since it is to be built across the Salween river, which serves as part of the natural border between Thailand and Burma.

It could introduce a physical change to the river, and thus the border.

The Ministry of Energy on behalf of the government in May last year signed a memorandum of understanding with Burmas Ministry of Electric Power to develop the dam projects on the river. As a result of the MoU, a working group proposed five dams based on satellite surveys _ three in Burmese territory, and two on the border. Altogether, the five dams will generate 12,000 megawatts of electricity.

Seven months later, the Egat signed the memorandum of agreement with Burma, and agreed to start the scheme with the Hutgyi dam, about 50 kilometres inside Burma territory, opposite Tak province.

Senator Tuenjai Deetes, chairwoman of the senate panel on natural resources stability, said the panel may call on Egat to submit the project to parliament.

Earlier, Egat Plc refused to disclose information about the projects as demanded by senators and activists, saying it would violate an agreement with Burma.

This has heightened concerns about the transparency of the projects among social development experts as well as environmentalists, who fear the projects might have an impact on the environment, peoples livelihoods, as well as national security.