Asian Development Bank

Activists demand halt to all loans

Bangkok Post
May 5, 2000

A major protest against the Asian Development Bank is looming as non-governmental organisations have demanded it stop all loans to the government and give a clear reply by Sunday.

Activists rally outside a Chiang Mai hotel to attract public attention to their campaign against the holding of the 33rd annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank from May 6-8.

In a four-point demand, the People Organisations Network also called on the bank to cancel the agriculture sector reform loan, all conditionalities under the social reform programme, and to scrap the Klong Dan water treatment project in Samut Prakan.

The network called on the bank, which begins its 33rd annual meeting tomorrow, to consider the demands not later than 4pm on that day, and to respond to them by noon on Sunday or face massive protest demonstrations across the country. The Manila-based bank’s annual meeting ends on Monday.

The network also said the government’s attempt to link anti-ADB activities to acts of violence and terrorism was aimed at justifying use of force against activists and villagers protesting against bank-funded projects.

A source in the network said all government agencies had projected a negative image of the people’s activities by saying they might lead to violence, and linking them to international terrorism.

“This is to legitimise use of violence against demonstrators in case there is a clash,” the source claimed.

The source maintained villagers who joined the gathering were suffering from the negative impacts of bank-funded projects, adding it was imperative the government and the bank look into the real problems.

The government must not allow international financial institutions to steal or exploit the country’s natural resources, he said.

The ADB must give a clear answer to the network’s demands within the deadline or face massive protests, he added.

Within hours of the network’s announcement of its demands, three senior ADB officials met some 200 villagers from Samut Prakan for about two hours and promised to look into their allegations the bank-funded waste water treatment plant at Klong Dan had caused environmental problems and opened up opportunities for corruption.

Cinnamon Dornsife, the bank’s executive director for the United States, promised to forward the villagers’ allegations to a senior management meeting today.

“We are moved by your presence and will take seriously the issues you brought to our attention,” she said.

Ms Dornsife and her two colleagues agreed the project had violated ADB policy on environmental protection, good governance and poverty reduction.

She pointed out the Bank had an inspection mechanism and urged villagers to use it.

Uwe Heinrich, executive director for Germany, Australia and Turkey, welcomed the turn-out of villagers but pointed out such a show of concern should have come at the planning stage of the project.

The villagers are unhappy the plant site has been relocated to a green area without any environmental impact assessment. The plant initially was located at Bang Poo and Bang Plakod They also alleged corruption in the purchase of land at the new site in Klong Dan.

The villagers demanded the bank stop disbursement of loans for the project. The bank has agreed to extend a seven billion baht towards the 20 -billion-baht project that is also being financed by the government, Japan’s Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund (OECF) and the Environment Fund.

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