Bangkok Post 25 April 2012
By Nareerat Wiriyapong
Villagers protest against Xayaburi dam in capital
Villagers from along the Mekong River have rallied in front of giant construction firm Ch Karnchang, demanding it immediately suspend building the Xayaburi dam on the waterway.
The protest was held in front of the company's headquarters in Bangkok yesterday, coinciding with the company's shareholders meeting.
Last week CK informed the Stock Exchange of Thailand that it had signed a contract with Xayaburi Power Co to build the 51.8 billion baht dam in Laos and to purchase 1.28 gigawatts of power from the dam.
The construction commenced on March 15 and is due to be completed in eight years, according to the company's report.
Dozens of villagers and representatives from the Living River Siam organisation, which campaigns for local communities' rights to their water resources, accused CK of defying the Mekong River Commission's resolution last December that the dam needed further study over its environmental impact.
Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are on the commission.
"We are calling for Ch Karnchang to immediately suspend the Xayaburi construction until the commission's study is completed," the protesters said in a statement.
They also claimed that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) had signed a power purchase agreement with the Xayaburi developer even though the project has not been officially endorsed.
"We are preparing to file the petition against Egat with the Central Administrative Court soon. A petition has also been held carried out for the planned lawsuit," said protest leader Pianporn Deetes.
The demonstrators came from Chiang Rai, Loei, Nong Khai, Bung Kan, Nakhon Phanom, Amnat Charoen, Ubon Ratchathani and Mukdahan. They wore black T-shirts with the phrase "No Dam on Mekong River" written on them and carried effigies of Mekong fish species which they said would be affected by the dam.
The group also marched to the headquarters of Siam Commercial Bank, which they said is among four Thai banks providing loans to the project. The other banks involved in lending are Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai Bank and Kasikornbank.
They called on the banks to terminate loan agreements for the project and urged the Stock Exchange of Thailand to look into good governance issues with the listed companies involved in the dam project.
"If Xayaburi leads to disputes between Thailand and neighbouring countries, do Ch Karnchang and the banks have the capacity to handle that?" Living River Siam director Teerapong Ponum asked.
CK chief executive Plew Trivisvavet said the 1,280 megawatt Xayaburi project is a run-of-river dam which will have a limited environmental impact.
The project has conducted public hearings and has been agreed upon by all Mekong nations including Vietnam, which was reported to have been strongly against the plan, he said.
"All concerns regarding the environment were taken into account in the project's design and environmental study," he said.
Xayaburi Power, in which CK holds a 30% stake, has already signed the power purchase agreement with Egat and loan agreements worth 85 billion baht with six banks, he added.
Three thousand residents at the construction site have already been relocated to a purpose-built community.
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