Thailand will not oppose construction of the Xayaburi dam in Laos but Vientiane must take responsibility if the project causes any environmental damage, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk says.
Mr Preecha yesterday said Thailand was treating the project as an internal affair of Laos which Bangkok had no right to interfere in.
“Laos has the right to construct the dam as it is located inside Lao territory. We will not oppose the project. But if there are any environmental impacts, the Lao government must take responsibility,” he said.
“We will forward all concerns of local groups about the project to the Lao government,” he added.
The Thai position was made clear at a meeting of the Thai National Mekong Committee chaired by the minister on Tuesday. It will be conveyed to all members of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) at a meeting on Dec 7-9 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The project is the main item on the agenda for the MRC talks.
The MRC says projects that might have environmental trans-boundary impacts must have the consultation process with other members completed before they start.
This process was concluded for the Xayaburi dam on April 22 with different points of view from Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Cambodia wants to see more studies so the Lao government can implement mitigation measures against environmental impacts.
Vietnam has said the project should be suspended for 10 years. Thailand has said the project should be developed with “strong caution” about environmental impacts.
Laos earlier said Vientiane had taken into consideration all the concerns and recently said it would continue the project by the end of this year, citing the completion of the consultation process.
The 1,260-megawatt hydropower plant project is expected to generate electricity to Thailand in 2019, and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand will be the sole buyer.
Ch Karnchang Co is the project developer with financial support from Thai banks.
Pianporn Deetes, a Thailand campaign coordinator of International Rivers, said she was disappointed with the Thai government’s position toward the Xayaburi project as it was not in the interest of the public.
“I don’t think Thailand will deny responsibility as it is investing in the project and purchasing the electricity. We will continue our campaign against the project.
“If it is constructed, more and more [dams] will follow and eventually the fertility along the river will disappear,” she said.