Ministry told avoid Hutgyi dam panel

Key Issues: 

Bangkok Post 17 February 2010 

By Kultida Samabuddhi

The Energy Ministry is being pressed by environmental and ethnic minorities advocacy groups not to set up a neutral body to organise public scrutiny of a hydro-power dam project inside Burma on the Salween River.

A dozen non-governmental organisations yesterday issued an open letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva urging him to revise the PM's Office order assigning the Energy Ministry to set up the body to look into the Hutgyi dam.

"It is unacceptable to assign the ministry which supervises the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand - the Hutgyi dam developer - to set up a neutral body to scrutinise the project," said Pianporn Deetes, of the Southeast Asia Rivers Network, the Chiang Mai-based conservation group leading protests against dam building along the Salween.

The neutral body was proposed last month by a committee studying human rights violations resulting from construction of the Hutgyi dam.

The committee, appointed by Mr Abhisit a year ago, is chaired by PM's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey.

Its proposal for a neutral body to assess the dam was put to the PM's Office, where acting permanent-secretary Rapeephan Sariwat suggested that it be established by the Energy Ministry.

Ms Pianporn, a member of the Sathit committee, said the neutral body should be similar to the four-party panel formed to solve pollution problems at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong. That panel is made up of academics and representatives from state agencies and affected villagers.

The Thai and Burmese governments signed a memorandum of understanding in 2005 to study the possibility of building dams along the Salween River. Hutgyi dam is one of six projects that have been promoted.

The 36 billion baht project is about 30 kilometres inside Buumese territory across from Mae Hong Son.

It is expected to produce 1,200 megawatts of electricity.