Irrawaddy 23 August 2007
By Violet Cho
Thailand’s energy authority EGAT held talks with leaders of the Karen National Union on Thursday on a controversial proposal to build a dam on the Salween River, which has run into strong opposition by local villagers.
According to the Karen River Watch, the KNU gave EGAT permission last month to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed Hat Gyi dam. But the project has encountered heavy criticism and opposition by local authorities and villagers, who say the dam would threaten the livelihoods of more than 10 million people from 13 ethnic groups who depend on the river for their survival.
Thirty EGAT engineers and other workers began a three-month study program on July 3. Opposition to their work has held up progress.
An EGAT delegation at Thursday’s talks in the Thai border town of Mae Sot is understood to have appealed to the KNU to help the project proceed. The KNU’s Lt-Col Roger Khin said no decision had been taken at the meeting, and KNU leaders would now consult with other executive committee members. The EGAT delegation was promised a decision within two weeks, he said.
The KNU team at the two-hour meeting comprised Lt-Col Roger Khin, Col Htoo Htoo Lay, Gen Mu Tu and Col Soe Soe. The five-man EGAT team comprised mostly engineers, a KNU source said.
Naw Paw Gay Khu, a special consultant with the Karen River Watch, said: “I believe that the KNU will reach a decision based on the interests of the people, They (KNU) should listen to the people and work with them to stop these dam projects because they will have a long term impact.”
An earlier EGAT study of the Hat Gyi dam site, which began in May 2004, was interrupted when a surveyor with the authority died in a land mine incident.