Mekong Utility Watch

Stand by our agreement, argues Laos.

Bangkok Post
August 16, 1999

Minister urges Thai empathy, friendship.
Vientiane — Laotian Foreign Minister Somsavat Lengsavad has called on Thailand to maintain the prices paid for electricity generated by hydroelectric projects in Laos as a gesture of friendship and neighbourliness.

“We hope Thailand will empathise with Laos and maintain the prices to help us (develop the country),” said Mr Somsavat, also a deputy prime minister, on Friday.

He was referring to ongoing negotiations between the Laotian and Thai governments over the prices paid by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand for electricity from the Nam Ngum 2 and 3 dams.

In an attempt to cut costs, Egat has informed Laos that it would pay 1.08 baht per unit of power rather than three different rates based on different times of the day. Those rates range from three to 5.78 US cents (1.11 to 2.14 baht at current exchange rates).

A flat rate would represent a 25% reduction on current levels.

Under a 12-year contract that began in 1991, the Nam Ngum rate can be adjusted every four years. The current four-year term ends in September.

Mr Somsavat also reiterated the Laotian proposal to Thailand to start purchasing additional electricity-600 MW in 2004, 1,000 MW in 2005 and 1,700 MW in 2006.

Thai officials have rejected the proposal. Citing current economic difficulties, Egat has counter-proposed to begin purchasing 1,600 MW in 2006 and an additional 1,700 in 2008.

Mr Somsavat made his pleas during a meeting with a group of Thai journalists who paid a courtesy call as representatives of the Reporters’ Association Thailand.

The journalists, led by association president Kavi Chongkittavorn, visited Thailand’s northeastern neighbour during Aug 9-13 as guests of the Lao Journalists Association. The two associations have exchanged delegations for the past few years.

At a seminar to evaluate the role of the mass media in promoting relations between the two countries, members of both associations agreed that the Thai media has been more careful in presenting news about Laos.

Laotian officials had made several complaints in the past about the Thai media making insensitive remarks.

Buabarn Vorakun, deputy minister of information and culture and president of the Lao Journalists Association, said the Thai-Lao relationship has improved since the two media organisations established a relationship 13 years ago.

Seminars will be held to work out a list of Thai and Lao words which are communication traps.

A reporter exchange programme may also be established to allow journalists from both countries a chance to improve their understanding of the two countries on equal ground.

Mr Buabarn said Lao journalists appreciated the freedom and diversity of the Thai media.

However, he asked that Thai journalists also appreciate the different conditions under which the Lao media must operate.

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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