Cambodia pressures Laos to halt
work on Xayaburi dam By Radio
Cambodia has called for an
immediate halt to the construction of the Xayaburi
dam in an official protest note to Laos, officials
said in a statement last week, as opposition to
the hydropower project gained momentum in
Lim Kean Hor, Cambodia's water
resources minister and its representative to the
Mekong River Commission (MRC), an
intergovernmental body of four countries that
share the river, demanded in a letter to his Lao
counterpart Noulinh Sinbandhit that construction
on the dam be suspended pending an environmental
"Cambodia's position is
that Laos should halt the dam construction while
the environmental impact study is being carried
out," the Cambodian minister said in the
statement, according to
He urged Laos to stick to
commitments made at an MRC summit in December,
when member countries agreed in principle that
further studies were needed on the impact of the
dam before it could be built.
comes weeks after Sin Niny, vice-chairman of
Cambodia's Mekong Committee, threatened that
Cambodia could file a complaint against Laos in an
international court if it allowed the dam - which
would be the first mainstream dam on the Lower
Mekong -to be built without regional consensus.
Since the December agreement to suspend
construction, the Thai company Ch Karnchang
announced it has signed contracts for the
construction of the dam beginning March 15.
Through the MRC, established in 1995,
Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam have agreed
to a protocol for consulting with and notifying
each other about use of Mekong resources, but the
organization has no binding jurisdiction.
Thai protests Meanwhile in
Thailand, which will buy nearly all the power
generated by the hydro-electric project,
opposition to the dam has escalated, with
representatives from the country's riparian
provinces holding a demonstration outside a MRC
conference in Phuket last week.
protesters representing members of riparian
communities in Thailand's eight provinces along
the Mekong gathered outside the MRC's Mekong2Rio
conference, an international gathering of on
transboundary water resources management.
The group's protest followed larger
demonstrations outside the Bangkok headquarters of
Ch Karnchang and Thai banks providing loans to
finance the project.
The protesters are
concerned that the dam, which would block fish
migration on Southeast Asia's main waterway, could
impact the lives of millions in the region who
rely on the river for their food and their
livelihoods and pave the way for other hydropower
projects on the river.
At least 11 other
dams have been proposed on the mainstream Lower
Mekong, in addition to five already built on the
upper part of the river in China.
protesters were allowed a brief meeting with the
MRC chief executive officer Hans Guttman, who told
them only preliminary construction had begun
around the Xayaburi site and that the commission
would consider the concerns of local people,
according to Thailand's The Nation newspaper.
The day before the protests,
representatives from more than 130 civil society
groups issued a statement backing a report that
proposes an alternative power plan for Thailand
that excludes the Xayaburi dam.
report, produced by Thai energy experts Chuenchom
Sangasri Greacen and Chris Greacen, was presented
to the country's Energy Regulatory Commission on
Friday and recommends Thailand seek sources of
energy with environmental impact less damaging
than that of the Xayaburi dam.
"Power Development Plan (PDP) 2012 and a Framework
for Improving Accountability and Performance of
Power Sector Planning", criticizes the country's
plan for investing in energy infrastructure and
recommends ways where energy use could be reduced.
"If we can invest in the know-how to
manage energy consumption, in sustainable energy,
and in production efficiency, not only will the
price of electricity be lower, but we can also
avoid ... importing energy from high-impact dams
such as Xayaburi," Chuenchom Sangasri Greacen told
She said that Thailand's energy
planning process is flawed and that the country
should invest in efficiency measures and
alternative energy instead.
"We have a
better alternative," she said. "According to
energy conservation policy, we should invest more
in the area of producing better electrical
devices, or the standard of buildings instead of
building new power plant, or building
hydroelectric dams that create impacts to
Reported by RFA's Khmer
and Lao services. Translations by Samean Yun and
Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Rachel
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