EGAT 'must take blame' for deaths

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Bangkok Post 10 September 2007

By SUPAMART KASEM

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) must be held responsible for the death of two staff members at the site of the Hutgyi dam in Burma, environmental group Salween Watch said yesterday.

The state power agency failed to warn its staff of tensions between the junta and ethnic rebels on the Salween river, but pushed ahead with its survey of the site which is near an area where armed conflicts occurred between Burmese troops and ethnic forces.

On Sept 2, a member of the Egat survey team, Saman Kantameun, 53, died when unidentified attackers shelled the camp. Last year, a geologist died when he stepped on a land mine near the project site, 30km from Sop Moei in Mae Hong Son province.

The 600-megawatt dam project is one of a series of dams that will be built under a memorandum of understanding signed in 2005 by the Energy Ministry and the Burmese Ministry of Electric Power.

Salween Watch has called on Egat to suspend construction of the dam and other dam projects along the Salween and Tanintharyi (Tenasserim) rivers until there is an end to political conflict in Burma, and democracy is fully restored there.

''The costs of all dam projects are too high,'' it said in a statement.

The group said building the Hutgyi dam would devastate the lives of minority groups who live along the Salween river in Burma.

''A large number of local ethnic people in the areas will be displaced and will have to migrate to Thailand, resulting in social and economic problems,'' it said.

Earlier this year, Salween Watch and the Thai NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-Cord) submitted a petition to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, asking him to cancel the Hutgyi dam project because of the ecological and humanitarian damage it would cause.