The Thai government is defying a regio-nal decision-making process by proceeding with the implementation of a controversial US$3.8 billion hydropower dam project in northern Laos, an environmental group said yesterday.
“Recent oversight hearings by the Thai Senate and the National Human Rights Commission confirm that the government has joined Laos in concluding that the regional process is complete, thereby allowing Thai developer Ch. Karnchang to proceed with construction,” International Rivers said in a statement.
In April, at a meeting of the Mekong River Commission, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam raised concerns about the potential trans-boundary impact of the proposed dam.
At an MRC council meeting in Siem Reap in December, the four countries agreed “in principle” to seek support from the Japanese government and other partners for further impact studies of hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream.
The International Rivers statement said the Thais were flouting that informal pact.
An investigation International Rivers conducted last week had revealed “preliminary construction” on the dam was continuing, the statement said.
It also said the Thai Energy Minister had informed a Senate committee in a letter dated January 30 that “the Ministry of Natural Resources confirms that the [MRC] Prior Consultation process has completed” and that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand had signed a power-purchasing agreement with the project developer in October.
Thai government representatives and MRC communications officer Surasak Glahan were not available for comment late yesterday.
Asked about the letter quoted in the statement, Te Navuth, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, said it was “internal” and did not represent the four countries.
He said the Lao delegation to the December meeting had told development partners that action had been taken to “prepare the [dam] site”, but construction would not proceed unless member countries reached an agreement.
Lao government representatives could not be reached.