CHIANG RAI– A Thai court has accepted a lawsuit against a state-owned power company over its involvement in the building of a hydroelectric dam in Laos.
The project has drawn criticism from environmentalists, who say the deal breaches the Thai constitution.
The Thai Supreme Administrative Court accepted the case brought up by Thai farmers and fishermen who live along the Mekong River.
They say that the construction of the Xayaburi hydropower dam in neighboring Laos will affect their livelihoods.
The decision to accept this case is a reversal of a 2012 Lower Court decision which stated that Thai courts have no jurisdiction on this matter.
The lawsuit was filed against the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand or EGAT.
EGAT had agreed to buy 95 percent of power generated by the Xayaburi dam once the construction of the hydropower plant is completed.
Under the agreement, it would provide funds to help construct the US$3.5 billion dam.
The court said the deal lacks adequate environmental impact assessment, as required by the Thai constitution.
But significantly, the court dismissed a request that seeks to cancel the existing power purchasing agreement between EGAT and the Xayaburi dam operator.
So it seems unlikely that this lawsuit would halt the construction of the dam.
But environmentalists say that the move could set a new precedent in their approach to stop the building of more dams on the Mekong River.
Xayaburi is the first of at least 12 main stream dams on the Mekong River which the Laos government plans to build.
Most of the power generated from these dams will be exported to Thailand.