BANGKOK – Lower Mekong Region Villagers from Chiang rai opposing the Xayaburi dam in Laos have vowed to appeal the Administrative Court’s decision yesterday to dismiss the lawsuit regarding the dam which alleged that Thai state agencies signed the power purchase agreement (PPA) illegally.
While reading out the ruling, the judge said “the defendants did not neglect their duty, so the case is dismissed”, and told the villagers to copy the verdict and look for the reasons behind the court decision in the document.
According to a copy of the judgement released yesterday, the PPA signing was legal and passed the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) Procedure for Notification Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA). Hosted by the Department of Water Resources (DWS), four public hearings were arranged in Thailand’s provinces along the Mekong River in 2011 as part of the PNPCA.
Information on the hearings was then submitted to the MRC and posted on the websites of the Energy Policy and Planning Office (Eppo) and the Prime Minister’s Office, the ruling said, which means Thai state agencies performed their duty in compliance with the PNPCA’s legal process.
Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, Coordinator of the Community Resource Centre and lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, said she would discuss the ruling with the 37 villagers who filed the case and appeal since the court has yet to consider the transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi dam, which is located on the Mekong River in Laos.
She added that if the court cannot protect people affected by the consequences of cross-border investment, the establishment of the Asean Economic Community will raise problems related to future investments.
“The PNPCA has turned out to be a mechanism for rubber stamping the dam. If things continue like this, other Mekong dams will be constructed eventually,” said Niwat Roykaew, a village leader in Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai.
Niwat Roykaew told the Bangkok Post the villagers would appeal to the Supreme Court against the verdict.
The case was filed in 2012 by the villagers from the Network of Thai People in Eight Provinces, who live along the Mekong River.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), Eppo, the Energy Ministry, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the cabinet were allegedly involved in allowing the PPA to be signed unlawfully between Egat and the dam’s developer, the Xayaburi power company.
Despite the dam’s location in Laos, about 95% of its power output will be imported to Thailand’s power grid.
Villagers claimed that the study of the Xayaburi dam that led to the PPA’s approval did not take into account trans-boundary impacts, which contravenes the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental and Quality Act that enforces environmental impact assessments to be conducted for development projects.
There was also little public participation in the formulation of the PPA, the villagers said, which goes against people’s rights to access information under Thai constitutional law.
By Paritta Wangkiat and Mongkol Bangprapa