Mekong Utility Watch

Dam talks exclude minority groups

South China Morning Post
September 15, 1999

Thai-based environmentalists yesterday accused the American organisers of a conference of going behind the backs of vulnerable ethnic groups in discussing massive Burmese dam projects in private.  Oregon University, in co-operation with Bangkok’s Asian Institute of Technology, asked representatives of the military regime and various business groups to discuss ways of damming Burma’s Salween River.

The organisers deliberately excluded members of the opposition or ethnic groups from this week’s Chiang Mai meeting to avoid upsetting Rangoon.

Activists claim the conference legitimises and encourages controversial proposals to inflict potentially massive disruption on communities which will have no veto over development.

Proposals to dam the Salween, where it runs through Shan State, for hydropower and water diversion are likely to make the controversial Total gas pipeline project in Burma’s southern panhandle look tame, they argue.

The now-completed pipeline project has been slammed by human rights groups for leading to the demolition of villages, forced labour and increased repression.

Thirty-five Thai and Burmese human rights and green groups signed an open letter this week demanding that all future talks over the exploitation of the Salween recognise the right of local people to take part in any negotiations.

“This meeting isn’t even-handed. It’s for dam-builders, not the real stakeholders,” the director of the Southeast Asia Rivers Network, Chainarong Sretthachau, said.

The meeting has been attended by representatives of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank – keen dam-building institutions – and several private companies, as well as by officials and academics.

Observers with political or environmental axes to grind fear proposals to build a big Salween dam will acquire an unstoppable momentum if an institution can be found to put up the money.

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s