Petition to claim rights violated over Salween dams

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22 November 2014 | The Nation


In letter to NHRC, Myanmar army to be accused of abuses at Egat-backed sites
Concerned Thai and Myanmar people will officially petition Thailand's National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday over alleged human-rights violations related to two proposed dam projects in the Salween River basin.

"After accepting the petition, our team will inspect the planned sites for the dams," NHRC commissioner Niran Pitak-watchara said yesterday.

The petition will be submitted to the Thai rights body partly because the Electricity Gene-rating Authority of Thailand is a strategic investor in both projects.

According to a statement releas-ed by the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network and the Karen Rivers Watch, Egat promised to buy 90 per cent of electricity generated by a 1,360-megawatt hydropower plant at the Hatgyi Dam and a 7,100MW hydro plant at the Tha Sang Dam. Both dams would be located in Myanmar.

"We are concerned about human-rights violations that take place as a result of these two dam projects," the statement said.

The Myanmar army is building roads and deploying more troops to the dam sites.

The army has also supplied more ammunition to its regiments in the area and cleared a field to serve as a landing pad for helicopters.

Locals are starting to feel as though their lives are in danger, deputy commander-in-chief General Baw Kyaw Hei of the Karen National Union said.

He said the Hatgyi Dam site was in the KNU-controlled area.

"If what we have heard is true, this will create serious problems," he said.

Non-profit organisations based in Myanmar suspect that the army has carried out some military operations in a bid facilitate the dams' construction.

They said soldiers fired on locals near the Tha Sang Dam site in October last year and fighting between the army and the Shan State Army (South) followed over the next two months.

Fighting between Myanmar soldiers and rebel groups has reportedly forced more than 60,000 people to flee the Tha Sang Dam area, while more than 50,000 people have left the Hatgyi Dam area.

There have been reported violations of human rights such as forced labour, physical abuse and extra-judicial killings.

To date, more than 33,000 people have signed a petition to express their stance against the construction of the dams.

"This means if the dam projects go ahead, it will violate the principle of free prior and informed consent," the statement said.