February 2003, Volume 13
2. EGAT TO TAKE PART IN
4. 69 GROUPS OPPOSE
5. DON'T STALL ON
PRIVATISATION, EGAT TOLD.
6. SENATE PANEL
WANTS DAM PLANS SCRAPPED. Kultida Samabuddhi,
STUDY INTO PLAN FOR DAM ON BURMESE BORDER.
REMAINS CLOSED AFTER
11. GOVT `PLAYS
A ROLE IN ETHNIC CLEANSING'. Achara Ashayagachat,
12. THAIS WARY
OF LATEST BURMESE BLITZKRIEG. Asian Tribune:
ADVISED TO MOVE. S.H.A.N.
After a quiet period
of almost two years, plans for damming the mighty
A final decision on
the location of the dam is still to be made, but the two governments are
at two sites. The GMS Power Group, a
subsidiary of a Thai company called MDX Plc has been conducting studies at the
potential project site of Ta Sang,
Although many have
thought that Ta Sang would be the area of choice because it has
had the most advanced studies done on it, the Electricity Generating Authority
of Thailand (EGAT) and some elements in the Thai government, have reintroduced
the idea of developing the Weigyi and Dagwin dam sites on the lower
By building the dams either directly on the border or inside
It appears that the Burmese regime is pushing for a dam at Ta Sang, presumably because
it is completely on Burmese soil and they would then have more control over
MDX Plc is apparently promoting this site as it is also facing financial problems and the project would help to sustain the company.
Despite the MDX move, powerful Thai
officials are pushing for the dams to be sited lower on the
In January 2003, the EGAT board was forced to resign and a new board was
formed due to pressures from the government to split up and privatise. EGAT
however wants to stay as one unit that holds state enterprise status, and is
trying to use the
funds for the dam if it is divided up.
Aside from energy,
water diversion is also important for
The Senate Foreign
Affairs committee of
Thai energy demand
is again surging with the resumption of its economic growth, and the current
massive 40% oversupply of electric power potential may, if the unsustainable
growth continues, be reduced by renewed demand by the time a dam on
developments affecting the dam plans are that
While a decision on
aforementioned factors are of serious concern in regard to the livelihoods of
the ethnic minority groups in
2. Egat to take part in
Avoids protests and saves money
As well, investing in hydro-electric projects in neighbouring countries means avoiding protests by conservationists in Thailand where they have more freedom to press their cause and power projects are required to pass environmental impact assessment.
The Electricity Generating Authority of
Thailand says it will invest in the US$5.5-billion project as it is cheaper
than building its own power plants in
Egat's board yesterday approved plans to buy power generated by the project. The authority's executives will talk with Burmese counterparts on Nov 21 with a view to starting dam construction as quickly as possible.
the existing plan, the dam is due to start supplying electricity to Egat by
2013 but the board wanted an earlier delivery date, said Sitthiporn Rattanopas,
The dam will produce 5,000 megawatts of electricity, according to a study by Energy Power Development Corporation of
says the project has high potential for power production as it will have a
storage capacity of 120,000 cubic metres of water, compared with 6,000 cubic
metres at the Bhumibol dam, the biggest in
Sitthiporn said Egat would develop, finance and operate the project under a
timeframe specified in a concession granted by Burmese authorities. After the
concession expired, Egat and
Part of the construction cost will be met from 10 billion baht that Egat derived from retained earnings and proceeds from the sale of the Ratchaburi power plant. The balance will be borrowed or obtained by issuing bonds.
the dam is located in
Sitthiporn said Egat's board also endorsed a plan to extend the operating life
of the authority's existing power plants by 15 years from their regular
lifespan of 15 to 20 years.
Egat could save about US$203 million by overhauling the units rather than building new plants, he said.
existing plants currently produce a total of 2,800 megawatts.
All but Bang Pakong,
Plc, a local major construction group, is set to sign a memorandum of
Sitthiporn Ratanopas, governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, said the signing would take place on Dec 20.
firm would develop the project in the upper part of the
Power, a subsidiary of MDX, has been conducting studies on the project since
1997. MDX has also won deals with
1991 survey by Energy and Power Development Corporation, a Japanese
government-owned generating firm, identified six potential sites along the
MDX has expressed interest in developing one site and has signed an initial agreement with Rangoon while Egat has focused attention on another two sites for possible dam construction.The other three sites had attracted little attention from developers.
project to be developed by MDX is located at Tasang, in Shan state,
A source at Egat said the two dams the authority was interested in constructing would have power generation capacity of 4,540 and 792 megawatts, respectively.
The project site is opposite Mae Sariang district in Mae Hong Son province. Egat has already submitted the project for the two dams to the cabinet for consideration.
The government was considering whether the project should be implemented by Egat or private companies. The project also depended on negotiations with the governments of the two neighbouring countries.
study by the Japanese firm showed the 4,540-megawatt dam is expected to be
around 570 metres long and 168 metres high. The dam, if completely built, could
result in a flooded area of 21,400 rai, compared with 150,000 rai flooded by
the Sirikit and Bhumibol dams in
The project to be developed by Egat is expected to require total investment of between $5 billion and 5.6 billion.
Sitthiporn said the plant on the
generation cost would be the lowest in
4. 69 groups oppose
A group of 69 non-governmental organisations and Burmese dissidents
yesterday voiced opposition to the proposed US$5.5 billion (Bt237 trillion)
dam on the
and environmentally damaging.
Energy Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana recently commissioned the Electricity
Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to conduct a feasibility study into
The project's opponents submitted an open letter to the Senate Committee on
urging it to scrutinise the project, saying the dam offered little benefit for
location of the dam has not yet been decided.Egat
governor Sitthiporn Rattanopas said
Some 10 million people from 13 ethnic minorities live along the river and
rely on it for their survival, said the letter signed by groups that include the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) and the All Burmese Students' Democratic Front.
"Even though the project has not been approved, many people have been
forced to relocate. Some of them were raped and killed," the letter said. Civil war between rebellious ethnic groups and the junta is still going on in areas proposed for the project, it added.
The project developers should hold off on the dam's construction until
A Thai construction company MDX is preparing to sign a memorandum of
5. Don't stall on privatisation, Egat told
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) could not use its
hydro-power plant along the
privatisation by 2004, said Energy Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana."The privatisation of Egat must be completed as scheduled in 2004. The authority cannot delay it by using the 200-billion-baht hydro-power plant project as a pretext because they are not related,'' Mr Pongthep said yesterday.
project is one of co-operation between the governments of
Previously, Egat governor Sitthiporn Ratanopas had expressed concern that
privatisation of the authority, if implemented as scheduled, would impede its
mobilisation of funds for investment in the
Under the proposed approach, the power transmission system would be split
off from Egat. Its power plants would be categorised into three groups of electricity generating units to curb its monopoly and encourage price competition for the benefit of the public.
believes the approach is impractical in
Mr Pongthep said a workshop would be held on Monday to discuss the best way
to restructure the power industry. The conclusion would be forwarded to the
National Energy Policy Council for consideration next month.
6. Senate panel wants dam plans scrapped
The Senate foreign affairs panel has called on the Electricity Generation
Panel chairman Kraisak Choonhavan yesterday said the projects would lead to
rights violations in
people to seek
immigrants. If the government gave the projects the go-ahead, the problem
of illegal labour and refugees would worsen, the senator said.
is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with
of a 3,600-megawatt dam, called Ta Sang, on the
Meanwhile, Egat is pushing the government to give the green light to another two dams to be built downstream, opposite the Thai district of Mae Sariang in Mae Hong Son.
Mr Kraisak said the government would be condemned by the international
community if it decided to do business with the Burmese military junta.
forums had already blamed
The board of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) resigned en mass yesterday amid speculation they wanted to avoid making a decision on the controversial power plants in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
board, appointed by former deputy prime minister Pitak Intrawithayanunt and
chaired by Somchai Ruechuphan, said the resignation was to facilitate reform of
The move will allow Energy Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana to appoint the new board, as Egat has been transferred from the PM's Office to the new ministry.
Egat governor Sitthiporn Ratanopas said the resignations occurred prior to a meeting which was scheduled to consider 14 key issues.
The most crucial issues were to consider the new power development plan, coal-fired power plants, particularly the controversial Bo Nok and Hin Krut projects in Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Egat's budget. "Every issue is very important. The new board will have to make decisions on issues which need to be finalised by next month,'' Mr Sitthiporn said.
The lack of decision on the coal-fired power plants had also delayed the implementation of the agency's power development plan.
Sommai Phasee, a board member, said the resignations had
nothing to do with the controversial power projects. It was to allow the energy
minister to appoint his own board.
Activist groups also failed to see the link between the resignations and the Hin Krut and Bo Nok power plants.
Witoon Permpongsacharoen, secretary-general of the Foundation for Ecological Recovery, said the dispute over Egat's privatisation was more likely to be the main reason for the resignation. It seemed the board was not particularly keen on the idea.
Ida Aroonwong, a campaigner for the Alternative Energy Project for Sustainability, said the resignation could mean a further delay of the decision on the power plants. "A new board would mean we have to start all over again,'' Ms Ida said.
Egat and private operators cannot agree on issues like the period of power supply, power billing and the kind of fuel to be used by the generator.
Energy Ministry wants them to switch from coal, a highly controversial fuel, to
construction of a hydro-power plant on the
Energy Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana said the Finance Ministry would be asked to consider investing in the project. Negotiations with state agencies and the Burmese government would be the next step.
Mr Pongthep said that this month he expected a final decision on whether the investment in the project would be made by the government through the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand alone, or by the authority and a private partner.
4,500-megawatt power plant is projected to cost as much as US$5 billion.
Three sites are under consideration. Egat is interested in building the plant on the upper
Pongthep said that whichever location was chosen, the generation cost would be
low and the project would promote the country as an Asean electricity hub. "
the same time, the authority would have to be privatised as scheduled by the
end of next year, he said. However, the initial share offering and listing on
the Stock Exchange of Thailand depended mainly on investor sentiment.
9. Feasibility study into plan for dam on Burmese border
A study will be made into the feasibility of building a major dam on the
The House energy committee has invited Sithiporn Ratananopas, governor of
Generating Authority of Thailand, to shed light on the possibility of building
a dam on the
dam would cost an estimated 200 billion baht and would have a generating
capacity of 4,500-5,700 megawatts of electricity. It would be able to supply
power at about 90 satang per unit, as opposed to the current investment cost of
1.90 baht per unit. That would translate into a saving of up to 30 billion baht
per year, Mr Suravit said. The dam, when up and running, would help secure
The project would be of great benefit to the country but an environmental
impact assessment study had yet to be made, he said.
Mr Suravit said Egat should manage the dam to keep the retail cost of
The project planners would learn from the mistakes in the conception of the
Pak Moon dam and Bo Nok and Hin Krut power plant projects, which ran into
fierce public opposition.
had been no negotiation with
That would depend on the findings of the completed feasibility study, Mr Suravit said.
Border remains closed after
The border pass connecting Burma's Shan State with Chiangmai's Chiangdao District stayed sealed on the day road-building materials were be transported to the projected Tasang dam site, 160 km away, reported Hawkeye, S.H.A.N. reporter from Ban Arunothai, opposite Shan State's Mongton township:
"Military sources here are saying they were informed by the Burmese that the preparations were not in place yet," he said, calling from the border. "Even Wa gates nearby are closed since yesterday. Trucks coming to Arunothai to pick up their relatives turned back empty."
source from Thai Sawad, that had been contracted to build a road to the dam
site by the MDX, a Bangkok-based real estate and infrastructure development
company that had concluded an agreement with
Meanwhile, a 22-men team of Thai experts: 3 from MDX and 19 from Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, who were in the Tasang area since 21 January, have been busy erecting wooden stakes (each 3 spans in circumference and 3 cubits in length, painted white at the bottom and red at the tip) on both sides of the river, stretching 2-3 km upstream from the dam site at Tang Hseng, according to locals. "They were also measuring the depth of the river twice each day, morning and evening," said one.
executive member of Thai-based Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN) commented
that it was a sign that EGAT was yet to decide whether to "go the whole
hog" on Tasarng or choose another site downstream at Weigyi, where the
Salween flows between the two countries. "
The financially hard hit MDX Group would need a formal Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) from EGAT in order to be eligible for loans from international finance institutions, said another Thai-based environmental group.
11. Govt `plays a role in ethnic cleansing'
Government policy to crack down on ethnic minorities along the Thai-Burmese
Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs,
said the government's raid on human rights activists, especially of ethnic minorities along the border, was an indirect collaboration with Rangoon.Its economic failure had forced the State Peace and Development Council to depend on drug money from the Wa group. Their collusion to wipe out other ethnic groups, especially the Shan, was ignored by the United Nations, Mr
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees had refused help or sanctuary to
harassed and deported by Thai authorities, Mr Kraisak told a seminar on
"Wa: Problems and Solutions to
The Thaksin Shinawatra government had embarked on controversial mega
projects, for example the Salween Dam, which would become another excuse for ethnic cleansing as it would destroy the Shan people's land, he said.
Maung Maung, representing the Organisation of Burmese Trade Unions, said
offices of the ethnic activists recently raided by Thai authorities were, in
fact, information centres. The crackdown had crippled efforts to obtain new
information on human rights abuses including forced labour and the use of rape
as a weapon against ethnic minorities inside
suggested the government pursue a dual track policy -dealing with
at governmental level, but also having a humanitarian policy towards ethnic minorities to find a sustainable way of eradicating drugs.
Zin Mei, a Shan representative, said the Shan people had been manipulated by drug traffickers and suffered raped by armed groups, including Burmese troops.
the international community intervened in Burmese politics, drugs and ethnic
cleansing would never be eradicated. "If
12. Thais wary of latest Burmese blitzkrieg
Chiang Mai, Jan. 28: As Burmese offensive rages further south against Karen
Several factors of the Burmese Army's move remain mysterious:
The first was the appointment of new commanders for three battalions in the
areas adjoining Chiangmai: IB 43 (Mongpiang), IB 65 (Mongton) and LIB 360 (Mongpiang), on 19 January. One of them is Lt-Col Myint Sway of IB 65 who just came after the Pang Maisoong Battle (20 May - 20 June 2002)," he reminded thata ll of them appear to be replaced by experienced, war-weary, battlefield commanders from Kayah (Karenni) and Karen States."
Then, on 20 January, more than 20 trucks escorting two "important equipment" transported arrived in Mongton, some 50 miles from the border, on its way to Monghsat, 40 miles further east, where the Military Operations Management Command #14 is headquartered. "We have yet to find out what's in there," said the source.
Two days later, he said, the commander of IB 226 opposite Wiang Haeng District and opposing Shan State Army positions along the border, was reported personally supervising the laying of 200 mines around his Pang Maisoong Camp, which was overrun by Shan rebels last year. Hundreds of mines were also reportedly been laid across Chiangmai's other district,
Chiangdao, since the battle in June, that have killed or maimed some 30 people, according to several local sources. "6 were killed on 17 January alone," said one.
"Last but not least", he said, "it was reported yesterday that Lt-Col Khin Maung Tint, Commander of the First Engineering Battalion from Mingaladon (near Rangoon), arrived in Mongtaw (15 miles north of Pang Maisoong)". He was reportedly looking for a suitable site to establish an arsenal, according to the source.
It was reported earlier that the Burma Army was preparing for an all-out offensive against Shan strongholds along the Thai border in December which did not materialize.
still it is speculated that, " the campaign may may still be launched
after the visits by the Thai Army chief Gen Somdhat Attanant, on 31 January,
and the Thai Prime Minister Dr.Thaksin Shinawatra on 9 February", a source
with the liberal opposition look to be going nowhere, and this is sure to hurt
relations with the West. So
Jan 19-24 visit by Win Aung was the first by a senior Burmese leader to
and investment were high on the agenda, but diplomats in
"The Burmese government is preparing to withstand tougher economic sanctions from the West by strengthening economic ties with its Asian neighbours,'' said a senior Western diplomat who declined to be identified.
Win Aung though, this trip to
two governments plan to set up a joint Business Council to help encourage
greater private Indian investment in
are many Indian businesses with factories in Southeast Asia who are interested
in establishing pilot projects in Burma, but so far they have been deterred by
the political situation there,'' said one Indian businessman who is involved in
the import and export industry. "This is likely to increase now that there
is a modicum of official support for companies interested in
of Win Aung's main aims on this trip to
proposed a regional summit next year of countries involved in the regional
grouping BIMST-EC, the
"What we need is a vision for the future so that we can work together and make the whole region prosperous,'' Win Aung told the members of the Confederation of Indian Industries.
the past few years, trade between the two countries has begun to expand
rapidly. In the past 10 years, the value of bilateral trade has grown nearly
more than anything else,
leading state-run energy companies Oil and Gas Cooperation and the Gas
Authority of India Ltd are involved in exploration works off Burma's west coast
and are also interested in onshore exploration rights.
Burmese foreign minister should see trade with
the formal results aren't as important as the strategic partnership that was
clearly forged during the trip. Win Aung was greeted as a friend and given
enormous attention by his hosts. He, in turn, made it clear wherever he went
Many Indian diplomats admit privately that this is one of the main strategic objectives behind the Indian government's Look East foreign policy.
is no coincidence either that Win Aung's visit to
is no doubt that
light of this, the
"With the international community preoccupied with the potential conflict in Iraq, the Burmese junta think the pressure to reform is off them for the present,'' said a senior US diplomat. "It looks like they are just going to stiff it out.''
appears to be the real reason behind
Thailand and Burma have agreed on ``interrelated'' frameworks of cooperation to stamp out drug production and trafficking once and for all, said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
After returning from his weekend
official visit to
First, the bilateral cooperation would be aimed at forging peace on the common border. Relentless fighting waged by Burmese ethnic minorities spurred drug trade as the rebels produced and trafficked drugs to finance the war.
The quest for a peaceful border would also need the leaders of the minority rebels at the negotiating table.
Mr Thaksin said the commercial development of border areas
would also be emphasised. Job creation would also
lessen the number of alien workers slipping into
Their cooperation would also expand into a crop substitution programme whereby locals would be motivated to grow flowers and vegetables in place of drug-producing plants.
The second framework would
involve a macro-economic collaboration to improve
The State Railway of Thailand had yet to study the
feasibility of rail connection with
On the third framework, the prime
minister said a collective effort would be made to correct
A clean image in the eye of the international community would attract investment and alleviate poverty.
Once people were less poor, they
would not be compelled to escape hardship by working as illegal migrant workers
Mr Thaksin said the three frameworks would complement one
another and would present as a long-term solution to the bilateral problems
that marred both countries' stability.
The premier said
Mr Thaksin said the dialogues had been successful and policies would be passed in close coordination down the echelons of power for implementation.
Prime Minister Gen Than Shwe would himself monitor the progress of the policy implementation, Mr Thaksin said.
15. Residents advised to move
As excavations by foreign firms on both sides of the projected dam site continued, some Burmese officers were counselling a preemptive departure of local residents in the vicinity, said sources coming to the border.
One militia leader, named withheld for his security, told villagers of Wan Sala in Mongton Township, 12 km south of Tanghseng, the Tasarng dam site, recently that he was deeply moved by the death of at least ten villagers who were killed in a series of discharges that had been going on since last month. "If you continue to stay, you will be forced to work for them with little or no pay," he said. "And in the end, after the dam is finished, you will still be thrown out of your homes anyway. You should therefore move while you still have time."
Sources said villagers nearby were sent for by the Burmese security forces in the area to haul out the earth from the holes. According to a Shan environmentalist, who visited to the site in 2000, there were 2 holes being dug out of the cliff on each side of the river, each at least 8ft in circumference and about 40ft deep. Sources who were there lately say the foreigners - Thai and Chinese - were digging further into the upper holes. It was during the diggings and blasting the death of the forced laborers occurred, they say.
Among the dead, 1 was from Palao, and 2 from Hsophsim, both villages further upstream, and the rest from Sala downstream.
The Thais are also repairing the logging road leading from Sala to Palao, they said. Thai Sawad, a Burma-based Thai company that had been contracted to build the road confirmed the report.
Bangkok-based MDX and
The project is being opposed by
Concerns for human rights, environment
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will be asked to scrap a 300-billion-baht
hydropower dam project on the
"The project would cause great damage to Thailand,'' said panel chairman Kraisak Choonhavan, citing concerns about environmental impacts and human rights violations.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is expected to build the dam and eight power plants in Mae Sariang district, Mae Hong Son.
will on Tuesday discuss
Mr Thaksin would be informed of the outcome of the discussion next week.
governor Sithiporn Rattanopas, who met the panel on Wednesday, said the
"When the project is completed in 2012, Thais will enjoy a lower price of electricity, at 0.90 baht per unit, or a saving of around 31 billion baht a year,'' Mr Sithiporn said.
He added that the Energy, Finance, and Environment ministers had all agreed on Jan 29 to give the project a go-ahead.
The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has volunteered to make an assessment study of the project's environmental impacts.
Initially, Egat would set aside 10 million baht to support the environmental impact assessment study, to be headed by natural resources and environment permanent secretary Plodprasop Suraswadi.
dam would inundate around 20,000 rai of lush forest in the
information on the
one could survey the dam site and conduct any field study unless the
governments of both countries formally agree to develop the project.''