Mekong Utility Watch

Dams on Salween – test for Burmese, Thai juntas

Marwaan Macan-Markar, Inter Press Service
September 28, 2006

Bangkok: Will South-east Asia’s last untouched body of water, the Salween river, emerge as a testing ground for the future relationship between this region’s oldest military regime, in Burma, and the new junta on the block, in Thailand? That may well be the case if a coalition of over 50 environmental and human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based in Thailand and beyond have their way. They are planning to petition the new interim government in Bangkok, set up after last week’s coup, to cancel a deal between the two neighbours to build a dam across the Salween. ”We want the project stopped and all the information gathered made public,” Pianporn Deetes, campaigner for the South-east Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN), an NGO based in the northern city of Chiang Mai, said in an IPS interview. The government of Thaksin Shinawatra, which was turfed out by the Thai military on Sep. 19, ”did not make public important information concerning the plans to build the dams,” added Pianporn, whose NGO is part of this campaign. ”There wasn’t even an attempt to inform communities on the Thai side of the Thai-Burma border on how the dam will affect them.” In fact, this secretive attitude of the Thaksin government was exposed a few days before Thailand’s 18th military coup. A senior official from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the state-run power utility, was quoted in the local media as saying that construction of the Hat Gyi dam in Burma’s Karen state will go ahead without a social and environmental impact study. The decision to drop universally accepted assessment before a hydroelectric project was on political and such a study is ”an internal affair of Burma,” the EGAT official said. … Read the full story. [PDFver here]

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