22,000 People Call on Mekong Governments to Cancel Xayaburi Dam

International Rivers
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

U.S. Senate Committee Calls for Delay in Xayaburi Dam

Bangkok, Thailand – 22,589 people from 106 countries submitted an international petition today to the Prime Ministers of Laos and Thailand, calling for cancellation of the proposed Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River in Northern Laos. The petition comes one week before the four Mekong governments meet on December 8th in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where they are likely to decide whether to proceed with the project.

The Xayaburi Dam is the first of eleven dams proposed for the Lower Mekong River. The petition expresses grave concern about the future of the Lower Mekong Basin, and urges the Prime Ministers to cancel the project and defer all decisions on Mekong dams for a period of at least ten years, until further studies can be conducted. The petition was presented to Thailand’s Government House and the Lao Embassy in Bangkok on Wednesday.

“The people of Southeast Asia and concerned citizens around the world have once again voiced their opposition to the Xayaburi Dam,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. “The whole world is watching. We do not want to remember December 8th as the day the Mekong died.”

The petition comes a day after the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a resolution by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) calling for the protection of the Mekong River Basin and for delaying mainstream dam construction along the river. The resolution calls for the U.S. Government to allocate more funding to help identify sustainable alternatives to mainstream hydropower dams and to analyze the impacts of proposed development along the river.

“The Committee’s adoption of this resolution sends a timely signal of U.S. support for the Mekong River Commission’s efforts to preserve the ecological and economic stability of Southeast Asia,” Senator Webb, chair of the Senate East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, said in a statement. “The United States and the global community have a strategic interest in preserving the health and well-being of the more than 60 million people who depend on the Mekong River.”

Although Laos is proposing the dam, Thailand is also playing a key role as investor, project developer, and purchaser of 95% of the dam’s electricity. The petition calls on the government of Thailand to cancel its plans to purchase electricity from the Xayaburi Dam and any other Mekong Mainstream Dams.

“Laos has a duty under international law to provide enough information about the regional impacts of the Xayaburi project to allow its neighbors to make an informed decision, but it has yet to do so,” said Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer for the Community Resources Centre in Thailand and a member of Mekong Legal Network. “Moreover, Thailand, as the primary beneficiary of the dam, should be equally responsible for providing more information about the project's impacts. Under international best practice, Thailand should assess all energy options before deciding to dam a river of such importance for millions of people's livelihoods, in line with the recommendations of the Strategic Environmental Assessment sponsored by the Mekong River Commission.”

“Through this petition, the international community has spoken out against the Xayaburi Dam as this is a river of global significance,” said Guadalupe Rodriguez, a member of the German-based organization Rettet den Regenwald (Rainforest Rescue), and one of the sponsors of the petition. “We cannot allow a privileged few to trade away the biodiversity and ecosystems that feed millions, as it would spark tension in the region.”

At a meeting in April, the governments of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam raised concerns about the Xayaburi Dam’s transboundary impacts and recommended further study and public consultations. The four governments could not agree on a solution, and elevated the decision to a ministerial meeting now scheduled for December 7-8.


The full text of the petition is as follows:

To: H.E. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand and H.E. Thongsing Thammavong, Prime Minister of Laos

Copy: H.E. Mr. Choummaly Sayasone, President of Laos

We the undersigned are writing to express our grave concern over the proposed Xayaburi Dam in northern Laos, and the fate of the Mekong River Basin.

The Xayaburi Dam threatens the lives and food security of millions of people. The Mekong River is home to the world’s most productive freshwater fishery and is a vital resource for the entire Mekong Region.

Scientists agree that the Xayaburi Dam would have severe environmental, social and economic impacts in the region, impacts which cannot be mitigated.

There are still critical knowledge gaps in understanding the dam’s far-reaching impacts and the Mekong River Commission’s own Strategic Impact Assessment calls for a 10-year deferment of all decisions about whether to proceed with Mekong Mainstream Dams, allowing time for more studies to be done.

We are aware that a decision about whether to proceed with the Xayaburi Dam will be made in the coming months. With so much at stake in the Mekong Region, we urge the Governments of Laos and Thailand to:

Cancel the Xayaburi Dam and defer all decisions on whether to proceed with Mekong Mainstream dams for a period of at least 10 years, until further studies can be conducted.

Additionally we call on the government of Thailand to cancel its plans to purchase electricity from the Xayaburi Dam and any other Mekong Mainstream dams.

Media contacts: 
  •  Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator, International Rivers, +66 81 422 0111, pai@internationalrivers.org
  • Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla, Lawyer for the Community Resources Centre, +66 81 772 5843
  • Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director, International Rivers, +855 92 569 113, ame@internationalrivers.org