With the Lao government moving ahead with the construction of the Xayaburi Dam despite objections from environmental experts and its downstream neighbors, advocates are heightening efforts to expose legal violations surrounding this project.
Yesterday, villagers from affected Thai communities asked the Central Administrative Court to conduct an emergency hearing in view of recent developments that are seen to cause irreversible damage to the Mekong River. They have previously filed a case seeking the suspension of the Power Purchase Agreement between Xayaburi Power Company and the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT) on grounds of constitutional violations.
On the same day, the Thai Senate Committee on Good Governance Promotion and Corruption Investigation held a public seminar to discuss concerns about the dam’s transboundary impacts, the project’s compliance with the 1995 Agreement on Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin between Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (also known as the 1995 Mekong Agreement), and Thailand’s official position on the project. Although the project is in Laos, Thailand has signed a Power Purchase Agreement for 95% of the electricity generated by the project. It has been raised by legal experts that Laos is in breach of the Mekong Agreement by unilaterally proceeding with construction of the dam despite serious questions and requests for more studies from downstream countries Vietnam and Cambodia, thereby ignoring the dam’s potential impacts downstream. Present in the Senate hearing were Senator Prasarn marukapitak, National Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Niran Pitakwatchara, former Senartor Kraisak Chunhavan, representatives from the Thai National Mekong Committee, civil society representatives Pi Nok Montree (Towards Economic Recovery and Regional Alliance or TERRA) and Niwat Roykaew (Cahing Khong Conservation Group), and villagers from the eight affected Mekong Provinces in Thailand.
Thai advocates continue to explore ways to use the law to protect communities and the environment from grave and irreversible damage from mainstream projects and have expressed plans to bring to court further legal violations.