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Xayaburi a go, says Lao minister

Laos will build the controversial Xayaburi hydro-electric dam on the Mekong river – and has already agreed to sell some of its electricity to Cambodia, its energy minister claimed yesterday.

In Phnom Penh for the 30th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting yesterday, Soulivong Daravong, Laos’s Energy and Minister, said the contentious 1,285 megawatt dam in the country’s north was a safe project that should not draw the anger of Laos’s Mekong basin neighbours.

“We are trying to progress, because this is an opportunity for us and we will do it sustainably,” Daravong said. “If the project is sustainable, they have no reason to object.”

Daravong went as far as to say he had received no objections from Cambodia and Vietnam – two countries that claim to have written to Laos recently, urging it to halt the project until trans-boundary impacts of the US$ 3.8 billion project are studied.

The minister confirmed that work had been completed on the Mekong’s banks at the site, but further work had been postponed until the rainy season ended.

“We are selling energy to neighbouring countries,” he said. “Right now, we are selling to Thailand, we are selling to Vietnam, and we are selling a little bit to Cambodia. We plan to sell to anybody who shares a border with Laos.”

Mekong River Commission countries – Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand – agreed last December not to allow the project to be built until the trans-boundary impacts on communities further down the Mekong had been studied.

So far, this has not been done, despite pledges of funding from Japan.

Cambodian Industry, Mine and Energy Minister Suy Sem said yesterday the MRC would await such a study.

“We don’t have any idea about the comments. Even if we did this, we would have to go through the Mekong River Comission,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at reuy.rann@phnompenhpost.com

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