Salween Dams Petition Letter sign now

20 September 2006

Subject: Please review plans to cooperate with the Burmese military regime for the construction of hydropower dams on the Salween River

Dear Caretaker Prime Minister of Thailand,

Cc: Minister of Energy and Governor of Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT)

We, the individuals and organizations from Burma, Thailand, and other countries listed below, are gravely concerned about the likely environmental and social impacts from hydropower projects on the Salween River, a joint-project between the Thai and Burmese governments, the Chinese state-owned Sinohydro Corporation, and Thailand based MDX subsidiaries. If the dams are built, ecological integrity, human security, and local livelihoods will be jeopardized. Therefore, we call for the Thai government and concerned agencies, including the Ministry of Energy and EGAT, to review and withdraw from the projects for the following reasons:

Lack of transparency in the decision-making process

The entire decision-making process for the planning of the Salween hydropower development projects has been shrouded in secrecy. There has been a total absence of public participation among the dam-affected communities in Burma already suffering the atrocities of civil war, or the over fifty ethnic Thai-Karen villages living along the Salween River in Thailands Mae Hong Son province.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Thai Ministry of Energy and Burmas Ministry of Electric Power was signed in May 2005 for the development of five hydropower projects on the Salween and Tanaosri river basins. Then in December 2005, a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed for joint-investment and implementation of the Hutgyi dam construction between EGAT Plc and Burmas Department of Hydropower stating that the construction would commence in late 2007. Recently, in June 2006, EGAT and Sinohydro Corporation, a state enterprise from the Peoples Republic of China signed an MoU for the development of the Hutgyi dam.

Violation of international good governance principles

The planned Salween hydropower projects has been conceived on double standards and loopholes to avoid compliance with relevant environmental laws in Thailand, as follows for the Hut Gyi dam case:

1. As a state enterprise, EGAT is strongly urged to maintain its good standards of practice for projects implemented in Thailand in other countries. This includes the compliance with the current Thai Constitution and other relevant laws and regulations. The following laws and regulations are currently being violated in the planning process for the Salween dams: complete disclosure of project information to the public; hearing process to receive input from as many groups of affected people as possible; and the official public hearing of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report and the review and approval process of such report as required by the Thai Enhancement and Conservation of the Environmental Quality Act B.E. 2535 (1992).

Specifically, the MoUs and MoAs go against articles 46, 58, 59, and 60 of the 1997 Thai Constitution, and the 1997 Official Information Act of Thailand. Article 46 states Thai citizens have the right toparticipate in the management, maintenance, preservation and exploitation of natural resources and the environment; and Article 59 states A person shall have rights to receive information, explanation and reasons from state agencies before the government gives permission for any project that could affect the quality of the environment or life. In addition, the reservoir caused by the Hutgyi dam construction will obviously distort the expanse of the Salween River, which is being used as the demarcation line between Thailand and Burma, and thus may lead to geopolitical conflicts in the future.

2. It remains unclear whether the MoAs signed by EGAT Plc. remain valid and legally binding given the reinstatement of the status of EGAT to be a state enterprise. At the time of signing the MoA with Burmas Department of Hydropower in December 2006, EGAT was still declared as a public company. Yet, there was a consequent ruling from the Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand later the same month to revoke legal foundation for the privatization of EGAT.

Amidst this ambiguity, EGAT rushed to sign another deal, the MOA for the study and development of hydropower of the Hutgy Dam with the Sinohydro from PRC. Such an impetuous effort may give rise to international conflict in the future if the contract is later found invalid and not legally binding due to the ruling for revocation of the listed status of EGAT.

Funding brutal suppression by the Burmese junta against ethnic groups in Burma

Notorious for its severe human rights violations, the Burmese junta over the past many decades has been attempting to wipe out entire ethnic groups in various parts of the country. This has included the burning and looting of villages in ethnic areas, forced relocation and forced labor, systematic rape, extra judicial killings, and ongoing wars waged against armed ethnic minority groups and civilians. At least 540,000 people inside Burma have been displaced and many more have fled across the Thai border, or taken refuge along the border. It is estimated that more than 140,000 people in Burma will be removed from their land due to the many development projects along the Thailand-Burma border, including the Hutgyi Dam. This initial one billion dollar joint-investment with the Burmese junta will provide them with more military resources for the Burmese Army to enable further conquest in ethnic areas, which will contribute to further human rights violations in the country.
Thailand stands accused of supporting the Burmese junta by continuing to make business deals with the military junta despite the regimes grave human rights violations. In addition, Thailand has to bear the cost of increasing waves of refugees who seek shelter in Thailand.as their villages are burned by the junta and/or flooded by the dams. They will have no home to return to should the hydropower projects on the Salween River materialize.
For these reasons, the Thai government should stop this hydropower project as it directly aids the Burmese regimes ability to consolidate their grip of power over contested ethnic territory during a war, at the expense of the environment and further suffering of ethnic peoples.

A High Risk Investment
All the proposed sites for dam construction on the Salween River are situated within areas of ongoing civil war. For example, the Hutgyi dam site is located in an area with thousands of land mines and unexploded ordnances (UXO). In fact, EGAT lost one of its employees to a landmine in May 2006 during a survey of the site for the construction of Hutgyi Dam. The incidence attests to the lack of security and the volatile situation in the area. It is not reasonable or acceptable for EGAT to risk the life of its personnel for this project.

Highly distorted energy forecast of Thai energy planning agency
Previous energy demand forecasts in Thailand have been subject to unacceptable levels of inaccuracy, particularly regarding the tendency to overestimate the energy demand by simply pegging the figures on the over-forecasted economic growth rate. Taking the latest Power Development Plan issued last April for the next 10-15 years, the projection of energy demand already exceeds the actual demand by at least 900 megawatts. Therefore, power development planning needs to be subject to scrutiny and input from other stakeholder groups to ensure more accurate estimates of power demand. We call for a more accurate power forecast, effective demand-sided management, increased efficiency in electricity utilization, and consideration of alternative and renewable sources of fuels, all of which would more accurately assess the necessity for construction of the Salween dams.

A plea for stopping the projects
The undersigned below requests the Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin and relevant agencies to withdraw from all the planned hydropower projects on the Salween River in cooperation with the Burmese junta.

We sincerely hope the Caretaker Prime Minister shall take the suffering of people in neighboring countries into account just as you would your own peoples suffering and realize the immense environmental and social damage that will not just affect the two countries, but the whole region. The withdrawal of these hydropower project plans on the Salween River will elevate Thailand to be recognized as one of the most prudent and responsible leaderships in the region as well with the international community.

In good faith and respect,
.

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Maurice SavageBy:
School and EducationIn:
Petition target:
Caretaker Prime Minister of Thailand

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