Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Laos defends actions on Xayaburi at MRC meet

Laos defends actions on Xayaburi at MRC meet

Laos defends actions on Xayaburi at MRC meet

Laos yesterday defended its decision to begin building the Xayaburi dam amid criticism from Cambodia on a lively final day of the Mekong River Commission’s annual council meeting in Luang Prabang, Laos.

According to separate sources who attended, Cambodia spoke out against Laos for “misinterpreting” the 1995 Mekong Agreement and the prior consultation process that was designed to have prevented it from constructing the 1,285-megawatt dam without approval from its neighbours.

Laos’s delegation, led by Vice-Minister of Energy and Mines Viraponh Viravong, however, denied breaching any agreements by beginning construction last November – before requested studies were carried out into potential impacts downstream – MRC secretariat communications officer Surasak Glahan said last night.

“[Viravong] re-confirmed the position of Laos that the country had followed strictly the requirements for the prior consultation process,” he said.

Kirk Herbertson, Southeast Asia policy coordinator for environmental group International Rivers, said he was happy Cambodia had raised concerns about the 1995 agreement and the shortcomings of the Xayaburi prior consultation process – which is still technically active – and added that Vietnam called for a halt to all mainstream development. “But what happened were words,” he said.

“We will be looking to see signs of progress in the next few months. Ideally, we’d like to see Xayaburi postponed, [and] like Vietnam, we ask for all future projects to be postponed.”

MRC development partners, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the US and Denmark, voiced concerns regarding the dam in a joint address.

“It is our consensus that building dams on the mainstream of the Mekong may irrevocably change the river and hence constitute a challenge for food security, sustainable development and biodiversity conservation,” the statement says.

Jake Brunner, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s program coordinator for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar, said the future of dams on the mainstream Me­kong would be influenced by how the MRC’s shortcomings were addressed.

“It’s hard to justify further large-scale international support to the MRC in its current form. There’s no reason [it] will have more success with the next mainstream dam,” he said. 

“The agreement needs to be strengthened to ensure that one country can’t ignore the justified concerns of the other countries of major irreversible trans-boundary impacts. And that’s a political challenge, not a technical one.”

Tep Asnarith, communications manager for WWF-Cambodia, said his organisation – a development partner – was barred from attending for the first time in a decade.

“No explanation was communicated to WWF to support this decision,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports