Public Statement: The Network of People in Salween Basin Demand Suspension on Mong Ton Dam and dams on the Salween/Thanlwin River

Key Issues: 
Public Statement on Mong Ton Dam on the Salween/Thanlwin River
 
9 June 2016 | The Network of People in Salween Basin 
 
As revealed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy, on 10 June, the governments of Thailand and Myanmar are scheduled to discuss possible collaboration on energy between the two countries. Thailand has previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Myanmar for the purchase of power generated by the proposed 6,000-megawatt Mong Ton Dam. Following the elections in Myanmar, the Ministry of Energy has been restructured. Negotiations between Thailand and the new government are forthcoming on Thailand’s purchase of power at the proposed ratio of 15-20%, indicated in the plans for foreign power import of Thailand’s Power Development Plan (PDP) 2015. 
 
The People’s Network has closely followed proposals for hydropower development on the Salween River. We are gravely concerned about forthcoming plans to construct hydroelectric dams on the river in Myanmar, particularly those situated in the ethnic minority areas, including the Mai Tong or Mong Ton Dam, proposed for the stretch of the Salween passing through Shan State, only 70 kilometers from the border district of Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai Province. The downstream stretch of the Salween also forms the border between Thailand and Myanmar in Mae Sariang District and Sob Moei District, Mae Hong Son. 
 
Our concerns can be summarized as follows;  
  1. Mong Ton Dam will be built in central Shan State, where over 300,000 people were displaced by the persecution of the Myanmar army during massive forced relocations in 1996 under the previous military government.  Many fled and sought refuge in the border areas with Thailand and due to ongoing conflict and unrest in Shan State have thus far been unable to return to their homelands. The status and situation of people displaced from Shan state must be addressed. Construction of the dam in the area would permanently inundate the lands of this displaced population, leaving many landless and stateless. Investment from Thailand in the Mong Ton project will trigger further violent unrest and upheaval in Shan State.  
  2. In the post-election era, Myanmar is progressing toward democracy. As the State Counsellor, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has opened talks with various ethnic groups. The ongoing peace-building process remains fragile and could be disrupted if Thailand concludes a deal with the government of Myanmar including contracts for large-scale investment projects such as the Mong Ton dam. The world is watching the decisions and steps taken by the new government to secure Myanmar’s future. Moving forward on a destructive project such as Mong Ton is contrary to the expectations of people in Myanmar and the global community. As well as further violating the rights of people in Shan State, it would be an opportunistic and exploitative act undertaken during the ongoing displacement of the area’s people. 
  3. The Salween is one of the only transboundary rivers in the region which remains free-flowing. It is the common heritage of three riparian countries and warrants preservation and protection. No other rivers in Thailand or the region continue to run free and support such lush and pristine forest areas and abundant biodiversity. In the absence of broader consultation and consensus, Thailand cannot simply press forward with a project that will cause severe and widespread impacts on a globally important ecological system.
  4. According to a Thai cabinet resolution issued on 16 May 2016: 

“The state should ensure that the private sector is responsible to society and respects human rights during the course of their investments in Thailand and the investments of Thai investors in other countries. There should also be studies of impacts on human rights as a result of various projects and the production of annual reports or the disclosure of information concerning impacts on human rights.”

We urge the Ministry of Energy and other the Thai agencies concerned to immediately act in compliance with the cabinet resolution. This means undertaking, and disclosing to the public, thorough assessments of the proposed Mong Ton dam’s human rights impacts on communities in Myanmar and Thailand before any decision is taken to proceed.  

As Daw Aung San Su Kyi is visiting Thailand during June 23-25, we would like to request that she, as a leader of the Myanmar government, considers the importance of the Salween/Thanlwin River as the home of ethnic minority peoples and as an invaluable source of biodiversity and natural resources. The Salween/Thanlwin must be protected from unaccountable investment.
 
The Network demands the suspension of any hydropower projects in the Salween/Thanlwin River until all affected people in the two countries are provided an opportunity to meaningfully participate in decisions regarding the river’s future and the management of natural resources.
 
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