Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva assured a Mekong river conservation group that he will bring up the issue of dams construction on the Mekong river for discussion with the international community. Meanwhile, the environmental group insists that it will continue to oppose the purchase of electricity from Laos.
On June 18, 2009, the Mekong River conservation group TERRA or Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance, which is a coalition of more than 20 international and regional environmental organizations, officially submitted a letter of opposition to the construction of hydro-electric dams on the Mekong River to the Thai Prime Minister in Bangkok, together with a list of petitioners around the world who have sent in as many as 16,380 postcards to express the same sentiment.
Mr. Abhisit assured TERRA representatives that he will take up the issue of dam construction on the Mekong River for discussion at the bilateral, regional and international levels, whether with the Mekong River Commission, with Thailand’s fellow ASEAN members, or with ASEAN’s dialogue partners.
However, he stressed that the Thai government alone cannot make a decision to agree or disagree with the construction of any particular dam on the Mekong River as the Mekong is an international river, belonging to many countries; therefore, it is necessary for his government to consult with other riparian nations.And the consultation would be based on data obtained from surveys that conform to international standards and are acceptable to all parties involved. A total of 11 dam projects have been planned for construction on the segment of the Mekong river that runs through Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.
Regarding the issue of electricity demand in Thailand, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva confirmed that his government will order concerned agencies to conduct a new comprehensive study and assessment because, although current electricity demands in Thailand have decreased, he believed it is the result of the global financial crisis; however, when his country’s economy picks up and expands in the future, demands would rise. Thus, it is necessary to conduct a new study and analyze the real situation.
Meanwhile, the conservation group, Thailand-based TERRA, asserts it will continue to relentlessly oppose dam construction on the Mekong river. TERRA members say they will also continue their campaign to disseminate information among Thai people to inform them of the need to oppose electricity purchase from Thailand’s neighbors, especially from Laos and Myanmar. The Thai government has agreed in principle to purchase electricity from Laos for a total of 7,000 megawatts by 2015, which TERRA says far exceeds the actual domestic demand.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on June 19, 2009. Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam.)