CHIANG RAI – Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has weighed in on Chang Rai residents who have been kicking up a fuss over the government’s plans to blast rapids in the Mekong River, saying they should try harder to understand the benefits of the project.
Speaking after visiting the Department of Water Resources’ Mekhala Centre, Gen. Prayuth told the Bangkok Post that it is important that locals are made aware of the project and that they do not just throw up objections willy-nilly. (yes willy-nilly)
On Dec 27 Gen. Prayuth’s military appointed cabinet approved the controversial “Development Plan for International Navigation” on the Lancang-Mekong River (2015–2025) as a framework for facilitating and ensuring safety in water transport along the Mekong River.
The development plan includes clearing the rocky outcrops of the Mekong River in Chiang Rai for easier passage of cargo vessels from China’s Yunnan to Luang Prabang in Laos.
Chiang Rai Locals and Mekong River environmentalists have objected to the plans, citing disastrous environmental impact on the river and the fishery.
Gen. Prayuth said that it is important to make use of existing natural resources to benefit the country while ensuring the negative impacts on the environment are minimal.
Prayuth said “we have to study why people oppose the project. Are they really locals living there who oppose the project or are they NGOs who will move on to [oppose] a new project after this one?
“Public hearings should be held on the project. And if the people still disapprove, we will have to work again until it [the project] is approved,” he said.
He stressed that it is important to make people recognize and accept the majority’s voice, which is basic democracy, adding that it is not fair that a few opposing voices could stop the project.
“If we can’t push the project forward, no one will get any benefit from it,” he added.
The locals said that the project will strongly impact the freshwater ecology system as the rapids are breeding grounds for many species of fish, especially giant catfish.
Moreover, it will destroy local tourism as people flock to see the pristine rapids of Chiang Rai province.
They are also going to launch a campaign to raise public awareness over the need to preserve the country’s rapids.
By Apinya Wipatayotin – Bangkok Post