In a statement issued yesterday, the Salween Watch Coalition, an alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting the free-flowing Salween River and its communities, strongly condemned any use of violence to resolve conflict. The statement was in response to an incident earlier this week which resulted in the death of a surveyor of the Thai state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) at the afore-mentioned dam site on the Salween River. The Salween Watch Coalition called on EGAT to take responsibility for their failure to transparently and comprehensively consider the risks of operating in a war zone and abandon all energy projects in Burma until genuine democracy is restored, conflicts are resolved and basic rights are respected, including the right to informed participation in decision-making processes. Threats of future attacks have been reported, resulting in EGAT temporarily suspending work on the dam; however, officials have vowed that Thailand will continue work at a later date.
September 5, 2007
Following the September 2 blast at the workers’ camp at Hat Gyi in Karen State, resulting in the death of another EGAT worker, Salween Watch would like to express our regret at this tragic event, and raise our concerns as follows:
- We, the Salween Watch coalition, do not support the use of violence to solve problems. This tragic event has happened because EGAT’s operations until now have been shrouded in secrecy. They have totally disregarded voices from civil society warning about the lack of security and extensive human rights abuses in the Salween River basin, where civil war between ethnic forces and the Burma Army has been continuing for over five decades.
- EGAT’s investment in dam projects has never taken into account the real costs and risks of operating in areas where fighting and human rights abuses are taking place. The price of the Salween projects now includes the lives of two EGAT workers, in addition to uncountable casualties among local people. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, many to Thailand, resulting in considerable health, social and economic burdens. If these costs were genuinely counted, the five hydropower projects on the Salween River in Burma would be found to be unacceptably high and unjustifiable.
- These dam projects in Burma will pose a risk for Thailand’s energy security, since the power plants will be located in exceptionally volatile areas, where numerous armed forces are in conflict. There is a constant risk of attack from various forces at any time.
- To increase security for the construction of the dams, this incident is now being used to justify the increased deployment of Burmese troops in the area, directly contributing to the conflict. In the past decade there has already been an increase of 50 Burma Army battalions in Karen State alone, contributing to the displacement of over 500,000 people in Eastern Burma. Increased deployment will make the vulnerability of the internally displaced even more extreme.
This incident should serve as a lesson for EGAT. They must take responsibility for their failure to transparently and comprehensively consider the risks of operating in a war zone.
Salween Watch calls on EGAT to abandon all energy projects in Burma until genuine democracy is restored, conflicts are resolved and basic rights are respected, including the right to informed participation in decision-making processes.