Mekong Utility Watch

Big rally against Mekong River plan

The Nation
June 13, 2002

More than 12,000 people yesterday voiced their opposition to a controversial inter-government plan to blow up rapids and small isles in the Mekong River.

Residents of Chiang Khong and Wiang Kaen districts expressed fear that the project – to allow ships of up to 500 tonnes (dead-weight) travel along the Mekong River all year round – would have adverse impacts on the environment.

Chirasak Intayos, a key member of Chiang Khong Conservation Group, said most residents living along the Mekong River in Chiang Rai wanted the project scrapped. He said they feared the negative effects on the environment.

He noted that a major tourist attraction in Wiang Kaen – the Kaeng Phadai rapids – was also marked as an obstacle to be removed under the plan.

“We are collecting more signatures before submitting the list to the embassies of Laos, Burma and China, and to the Thai Cabinet,” Chirasak said.

Laos, Burma, China, and Thailand recently signed a joint agreement to allow international shipping along the Lancang-Mekong River. China and Burma have reportedly already begun clearing obstacles in “their” parts of the river for the project, due to be completed by 2007.

The destruction of isles in Thailand’s part of the Mekong is expected to begin in September.

Chirasak said the government’s backing for the project violated the Constitution, which prescribes public participation for projects that affect local people’s futures.

Chiang Rai Governor Rungrit Makornraphong, however, said the project would not cause problems.

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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