Mekong Utility Watch

Thai villagers occupy dam site, make demands

Environmental News Network
April 1, 1999

More than 5,000 villagers have set up camp at the Pak Mun Dam site on the Mun River in Thailand and are demanding compensation from the Thai government and the World Bank for their losses due to development projects. The eight groups of villagers have been affected by various development projects, including six dams which have depleted fisheries, in northeast Thailand.

“We, the people who have been affected by development projects, have chosen to seize Pak Mun dam because this dam is the symbol of development, which has caused us serious social and environmental problems,” the villagers said in a statement released March 23.

The villagers said they will stay at the Pak Mun site until their demands have been met. Neither the World Bank nor the government of Thailand had responded to the villagers at the dam as of Monday afternoon, said Aviva Imhof, South-East Asia Campaigner with International Rivers Network.

One of the demands being sought is 2.4 acres of land for each of the 3,080 fishing families who lost fisheries because of the Pak Mun dam project. The cost of this would amount to approximately $45 million.

If the government and World Bank fail to respond, villagers are demanding that the dam gates be opened to allow fish to migrate upstream.

The villagers are also demanding funding to correct and prevent the problems they are now experiencing with intestinal and liver flukes, and the debilitating disease schistosomiasis.

The 136 megawatt Pak Mun Dam, which was completed in 1994, was built by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand with $24 million in financing from the World Bank.

According to Imhof, the hydroelectric dam has resulted in a drastic reduction of fish populations upstream of the dam. “Villagers upstream can’t catch fish because there are no fish in the river,” she said.

Even a $1 million dollar fish ladder at the dam has proved useless, said Imhof, who claims to have spent hours at the dam and counted only a few fish going up the ladder.

“Before the dam was built, our livelihoods were supported by the resources provided by the Mun River. We did not need to pay for food, because we could get everything from the river and the forest. After the dam was built, everything changed,” said Thongcharoen Srihadham, chairman of the Villagers Committee for Recovery of the Mun River.

According to a June 1998 World Bank Operations Evaluations Department report on Recent Experience with Involuntary Resettlement, Pak Mun was “among the best experiences with resettlement among Bank-assisted projects.”

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