Thai Villagers File Lawsuit on Xayaburi Dam

Pianporn Deetes

On August 7, a coalition of 37 Thai villagers filed a lawsuit in Thailand’s Administrative Court in Bangkok aimed at stopping the Xayaburi Dam, which is currently under construction illegally in Laos. Even though the Xayaburi Dam is not located in Thailand, Thai actors have played a critical role as developers, financiers, and most importantly, buyer of the electricity. If the dam is built, it will cause harm to Thai people living along the Mekong River in the northeast provinces. The suit is against five Thai government bodies – including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the body that has agreed to buy 95% of the hydropower from Xayaburi – and claims that the Thai government should have considered the project's impacts to Thai villagers' livelihoods before agreeing to purchase power from the dam.

The filing was accompanied by almost a hundred Thai villagers and fisherfolk from eight Mekong provinces carrying banners, mock fish and fishing gear. The villagers wanted people to understand why they are asking for justice, and how they depend on the river for their food and livelihoods. The Court’s staff welcomed the villagers, allowing them to conduct a spiritual ceremony for the mighty Mekong River and demonstrate their traditional Mekong fishing methods to the journalists who were present. Here are some photos from the event:

It was not an easy decision for villagers to use legal action to fight against EGAT, a giant state-owned enterprise that has so far disregarded the villagers’ concerns about the ways the dam would cause them harm. They made the final decision to go to court because construction on the dam has continued even though there is no approval from other riparian countries who would be affected, including Vietnam and Cambodia.

As Thai citizens, the villagers hope their concerns about the Xayaburi Dam’s transboundary impacts will be recognized, and their rights will be ensured.

Update on the Lawsuit

In February 2013, the Administrative Court of Thailand denied jurisdiction to hear the communities’ case based on three grounds:

  1. the plaintiffs are not considered injured persons as conditions and compliances set by the Cabinet before concluding the power purchase agreement are considered part of the internal administrative process;
  2. the power purchase agreement is binding for contractual parties, such as EGAT and the Xayaburi Power Company, therefore third parties like the plaintiffs are not considered injured persons; and
  3. although the defendants did not comply with PNPCA, such process is not considered an administrative act and therefore the court is not able to hear the case.

As a result, local communities filed an appeal on March 21st, 2013 and on June 24th, 2014, the Thai Supreme Court will issue an order over whether or not the lawsuit will be accepted.  

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