Thai Mekong Communities Excluded from Don Sahong Dam Consultations in Thailand

Communities from along the Mekong River protests outside the consultation meeting for the Don Sahong Dam.
Communities from along the Mekong River protests outside the consultation meeting for the Don Sahong Dam.
Photo by Kumpin Aksorn

The Thai National Mekong Committee (TNMC) held their first consultation on the Don Sahong Dam today in Ubon Ratchathani. Officially called “project information sharing” those invited to the meeting were mostly government officials and leaders from the district and sub-district from North-eastern provinces of Thailand, not directly from the areas along the Mekong River.

Most notably Mekong communities were not invited to take part, nor were they informed that the meeting would be taking place.

Communities along the Mekong River first heard about the meeting from an article published in The Nation newspaper on October 27. No news of the consultation schedule for Thailand has even been placed on the Mekong River Commission’s Don Sahong roadmap. Chaiporn Siripornpibul a representative of the TNMC and inspector for Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is quoted in the article as saying “we will listen to local opinions.” However the TNMC has systematically failed to listen to local opinions. They did not respond to multiple letters from the Thai Network in Eight Mekong Provinces requesting information about plans for consultations on the Don Sahong Dam and ignored the Network's call for consultations to be conducted in eight provinces by the Mekong River, with at least one meeting within each district of the province.

Despite not receiving notice or invitations to attend the meeting, around 70 people from communities along the Mekong River, and the Pak Mun Dam area arrived at the meeting venue this morning. They stood outside holding signs which read “No more dam” and “We disagree with the Don Sahong Dam.”

Photo by Kumpin Aksorn

In front of the building, there were a number of soldiers and security staff. Mekong villagers, many of whom had left their homes early in the morning, as it took them a couple of hours to travel from the Mekong to the meeting venue, asked to enter the room and participate in the consultation. They were refused entry and so decided to enter on their own. Inside the meeting room, the group continued their protests of the consultation, with signs raised.

One dam-affected person asked “Will information and concerns from this consultation be the baseline for the decision-making of the Don Sahong Dam?” The answer was “no.” A speaker said that Laos has already decided to build the dam; and that [TNMC] do not have any authority to reject it.

Pak Mun Dam affected people also spoke at the meeting, relating how their lives have already been ruined enough by the Pak Mun Dam which was built on the Mun River, the largest tributary of the Mekong two decades ago. “Enough is enough. How will our next generation feed themselves? Without fish, how do we live?” they said.

Photo by Kumpin Aksorn

In the end, affected people demanded a proper consultation process to be held in all sub-districts along the Mekong River in Eight provinces in the North and the Northeast. As stated in a statement released by the Thai Network of Eight Mekong Provinces in October, such a process requires thorough information about the project and its impacts, including transboundary impacts, for the Don Sahong Dam, which means that a Transboundary Impact Assessment must be first carried out. All documents and relevant information pertaining to the project must be translated into Thai and disseminated well in advance of the consultations

The consultation process must be based on community rights and public participation. Above all, communities living along the Mekong River who would be most affected by dams planned on the Mekong mainstream, including the Don Sahong Dam, must have a voice in the decision-making process.

Monday, November 10, 2014