Salween Watch Update

 

March - August 2003, Volume 14

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


 

Contents:

1.  SALWEEN IS HOME TO NEW DAM ROW

KULTIDA SAMABUDDHI -Bangkok Post, 9 April 2003

2.  DAM - A COVER-UP FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF STRATEGIC ROAD BY BURMA TO CONTAIN SHAN MILITANTS.

Asian Tribune, 24 April 2003

3. BURMA TO GET POWER STATION (summary)

Bangkok Post, 11 August 2003

4.  THAILAND TO LOBBY MYANMAR FOR SALWEEN POWER PROJECT

 Dow Jones Newswires, 24 April 2003

5. TROOPS SURVEY DAM IMPACTS (summary)

Bangkok Post, 7 August 2003

6. PM WANTS KAREN PEOPLE, STORED LOGS MOVED OUT

Yuwadee Tunyasiri, Bangkok Post, 25 April 2003

7. BURMESE REFUGEES TO SHIFT FROM SALWEEN (summary)

Bangkok Post, 02 July 2003

8. BURMESE TO BE SHIFTED FROM CAMP (summary)

Bangkok Post, 3 August 2003

9. KRAISAK URGES GOVT TO ABANDON PROJECT

Apiradee Treerutkuarkul, Bangkok Post, 25 April 2003

10. HELP NEEDED IN SOCIAL AREA, SAYS SURAKIART (summary)

Bhanravee Tansubhapol Achara Ashayagachat, Bangkok Post, 29 April 2003

11.  KRAISAK WARNS DAMS MAY BLUR BORDERLINE

Wasant Techawongtham, Bangkok Post, 29 April 2003

12.  PAST ERRORS MAKE NO IMPRESSION ON EGAT

Wasant Techawongtham, Bangkok Post, 2 May 2003

13.  MONEY SQUANDERED BY 'POOR PREPARATION" (summary)

Preeyanat Phanayanggoor -Bangkok Post, 16 April 2003

14.  TOO MANY PROJECTS GONE BUST (summary)

Kamol Hengkietisal -Bangkok Post, 20 April 2003

15. INDIA SCOUTS FOR EXPLORATION PROJECTS IN MYANMAR (summary)

Asian Tribune, 2 May 2003

16. CABINET GIVES GREEN LIGHT FOR RATIFICATION OF POWER ACCORD

Kultida Samabuddhi -Bangkok Post, 5 June 2003

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX

 

Editorial:

Since the beginning of the year there has been a high level of activity at the sites of the two biggest potential dams on the Salween River; Weigyi in Karen State and Ta Sang in Southern Shan State. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and some senior members of the Thai government have been pushing for the decision and approval of one the dam sites. The following information is drawn from published news articles, eyewitness accounts from local sources and NGO researchers, and from analysis of high-resolution maps of the Salween watershed.

In the Ta Sang area the project site has been particularly busy with activity since January. The Thai MDX Company recommenced testing and working in the area one month after signing of the Memorandum of Understanding agreement on December 20, 2002. There has since been extensive drilling and resumed tunnelling, also numerous stakes at even spacing can be seen along the riverbank, at and upstream from the dam site. Military operations have increased on the West Side of the river, with troop numbers now increased to battalion strength. There are reports of a new road to the site. Thai Sawat, a Thai logging company registered in Burma and active in deforesting the Shan forests, reportedly has a contract with MDX to build the road. There are also unverified reports of a major new alternative route being built down the West Bank of the Salween to Thailand.

However, despite these advances it is still uncertain whether the project will really go ahead or not. A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the Thai and Burmese governments has yet to be signed. Thailand currently faces a massive oversupply of electricity, which means that much of the billions of dollars in investment is not paying for itself and further large power plants may not be needed.  In Burma such a large new source of power may not be required, as other ambitious power development plans are already underway, including exploitation of the huge offshore gas fields and major dams at Yeywa and Paunglaung. Construction of the Yeywa dam has advanced surprisingly quickly, and the specifications for its power production capacity has significantly increased to 600 megawatts. The 280-megawatt Paunglaung dam near Pyinmana is nearing completion and will meet Burma’s announced immediate power shortfall of 220 megawatts.  Additionally, in August the SPDC announced the development of the Shweli dam, a 400-megawatt dam that will be built in Northern Shan State in collaboration with the Yunnan Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation of China.

Further down the Salween at the paired Weigyi (Upper Salween dam) and Dagwin (Lower Salween dam) sites, more detailed surveying and studying has also begun.  These two dams will produce a combined 5,300 MW of electricity, at least according to figures from early studies. The high water level of the Weigyi dam is planned to be 220 metres above sea level (m.a.s.l.), while the lower Dagwin dam will be 86m.a.s.l. This is according to figures given by the Japanese consultancy group EPDC and quoted by various organizations including EGAT.

In relation to the elevation figures given on old British maps used by the Burmese military, at the 220 m level the flood waters will extend far back up the Salween through Karenni State and deep into Shan State, much further than most people realize. Indeed, the Weigyi dam would put the Ta Sang dam site, which lies at 200m.a.s.l. nearly 20m under water.

According to a paper presented by Foundation for Ecological Recovery in June 2003, the reservoir of the Upper Salween dam will be about 380 km long, with about 56km in Thailand, flooding around 600 000 rai of land. 20,000 rai of the Salween Wildlife Sanctuary will be put under. The reservoir of the lower dam will flood over 3,540 rai and will have direct impacts on the Salween National Park and three villages along the river.

A number of tributaries of the Salween River will face heavy impacts. Land along the Pai River in Mae Hong Son Province will be flooded, with about 18 Thai villages below the high-water level and the floodwaters coming close to the edge of the town of Mae Hong Son.

In Burma, the reservoir will flood many areas in Karenni (Kayah) and Shan States that are currently depopulated due to conflicts. Once the dam is built, the land of the refugees and internally displaced will be gone, permanently flooded.

It was reported in August that border troops are conducting impact studies on communities along the 130 km section where the 2 dam sites on the lower Salween are planned. Besides the communities living in the area, 5 Burmese army bases, and at least 2 bases of the armed opposition Karen National Union will be affected.  KNU officials have voiced strong opposition to the projects, as they will have very severe affects on the livelihoods of Karen people along the border.

At the end of April, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ordered the relocation of Karen refugees from the Salween forest in Mae Hong Son, giving the reason that the move is to prevent further illegal timber felling as “the Karen were log poachers in the past”. 16,857 refugees from Mae Khong Kha refugee camp (less than 10 km from the Lower Salween dam site) are scheduled to be moved to Ban Mae La Un village (also known as Pwe Baw Lu) in Sop Moei district after the rainy season from October-December 2003. The new place is less than 4km from the border and is located close to base of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a proxy army of the SPDC. The UNHCR and refugee support agencies have expressed grave concerns about the proximity of the site to the DKBA, who in 1997 and 1998 carried out dozens of fatal attacks on the refugee camps in Thai territory.

The primary reason given by the Thai government for the move is to stop deforestation and illegal logging in the Salween National Park forest as well as to keep the refugees safe from storms and floods that have already caused more than a dozen deaths in the camp. However, speculation is rife among the refugee and donor community that the Thai government is simply blaming the refugees for illegal logging as a justification to clear potential opponents and witnesses out of the area near the dam project site. There are many questions about the government blaming and shifting the refugees for destroying the forests, especially as the government is plainly planning to destroy the same forests by flooding them. It should also not be forgotten that the 1997- 1999 exposes of the Salween logging scandal showed that influential Thai tycoons, government officials, and military personnel orchestrated the logging. Some refugees and local villagers were involved, but in secondary roles. While the government has blamed the refugees for the illegal logging, the theft of 5,000 teak logs from an officially policed stockpile of seized logs in the wildlife sanctuary is something the refugees plainly would not have the means or connections to do. It also indicates that people with far more resources and power than the refugees are really behind any ongoing logging.

Karenni refugees, most of who come from areas that would be affected by the dam, have already been shifted up closer to the border by the current government. It is notable that refugees in parts of the border away from the dam impact area have not recently been under similar intense pressure. Pressure on the ethnic refugees may be seen as pressure of the Karenni and Karen resistance groups in the area to submit to the Thai government’s dam plans.

 In the beginning of May, Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and a group of senators, officials and environmentalists went to Mae Sariang to check out the area of the proposed dam site on the lower Salween. In discussions with local people it was revealed that most villagers and even local authorities, including park officials, the Mae Sariang district chief and the locally based Thai military had received little or no information from the responsible authorities about the dam project plans. They knew little more than that surveyors from EGAT had been working in the area.

Despite widespread ignorance of the dam plans, a group of people in Mae Sariang staged a pro-dam rally when the senate committee came to town. The villagers of Mae Sariang said they supported the dam as they believed 3% of the profits from sale of electricity from the Salween Dam would to go to their town, the development project would increase local cash flow, and there would be a reduction in the number of power cuts.

The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee is continuing to criticise the government for pressing ahead with project plans. The panel has stated fears that the project will lead to increased forest poaching, and has also pointed out that if the dams are constructed, the Thai-Burma borderline would be altered by the dam reservoirs, and would require deliberation by parliament. It claims the constitutional rights of local residents have also been violated because the government has not informed the majority of local people or consulted them as to whether or not they wanted the dam in the area. Senator Kraisak pointed out that the project would also intensify the problem of illegal labour and refugees. He also raised the likelihood of the international community condemning Thailand if they did business with the Burmese military junta.

In contrast, the EGAT governor is very eager to push ahead with the Salween project plans and expects construction of the dam to begin in 2007 and to start generating electricity by 2012.

The government chief is also pushing for the Asean Power Grid project, which will link the regions power sources in a transmission network with local countries.

Just before the violent crackdown on the Burmese political opposition and the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi at the end of May, the Thai Foreign Minister called for international assistance for Myanmar /Burma on humanitarian grounds, calling on organisations, including the Asian Development Bank, to take a more sympathetic line. This was seen as a part of Thailand’s opening moves to gain multilateral and bilateral support for large budget development projects between the two countries, like the Salween dams and the GMS Power Transmission Interconnection project. Since the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and international condemnation of the regime’s actions, the government has been silent about the dam projects and the media has published very little news about them. The junta’s actions have again put the Thai government in a difficult position, maybe delaying progress of aspects of the dam project plans. However it is possible that the authorities have simply been keeping quiet about the plans to prevent international controversy over Thailand's relations to Burma. Certainly there has been no easing of any policy towards the refugees, with the forced move to the insecure border location continuing to be pushed.

Elsewhere in regard to the energy sector in Burma, the junta’s officials are actively building ties with its neighbours India and Bangladesh. India is studying the possibility of bringing gas through an undersea pipeline from a huge newly discovered gas field off the Arakan coast on the Western side of Burma, and is scouting for more oil and gas prospects in other places in Burma. Signing of a major gas pipeline deal with India, along with financial, technical and political support for energy development from China puts Burma in a stronger bargaining position in regard to relations with Thailand.

In Thailand in June, a new Thai language book was launched called “The Tragedy of the Two Lands” describing the possible social and environmental impacts from the Salween dams. The book presents information from various environmental and social NGO's in Thailand compiled by South East Asia Rivers Network and Salween News Network.

Additionally, Salween Watch has launched a new website containing up-to-date information and resources about the Salween River and development project plans. Check it out at: www.salweenwatch.org

If you would like to subscribe/unsubscribe to the Salween Watch Updates, or if you have input and news updates, please email us at: salween_watch2003@yahoo.com

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


1.  SALWEEN IS HOME TO NEW DAM ROW

 

Proponents of three dams planned for the border with Burma tout the cheap energy rates possible. Opponents say the suffering caused to disadvantaged groups and the environment is too heavy a cost to pay.

KULTIDA SAMABUDDHI -Bangkok Post, 9 April 2003

 

Sittiporn Rattanopas is fully aware of the problems facing the massive Salween dam project in an area of Burma, which is home to ethnic groups fighting the Rangoon government.

The governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand has PTT Plc's failure to complete its gas pipeline from
Burma on schedule as an example. The pipeline ran into fierce opposition from human rights activists and environmentalists, and PTT Plc and its partners, global petrochemical giants Unocal and Total, were condemned worldwide for providing criminal support to a Rangoon regime accused of using forced labour, of forcibly relocating entire villages, of rape and ethnic cleansing in pushing ahead with the pipeline.

Obstacles are unavoidable when investing in
Burma, Mr Sittiporn said. But these obstacles did not negate the benefits of the dams, which would have a combined capacity of over 5,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity available at a cost of 90 satang per unit. This compares with 1.80 to two baht per unit for petroleum and coal-generated energy.

"I have promised myself to see the Salween hydroelectric project realised while I am the Egat governor,'' the energy chief declared."The project is so huge that I might not have another opportunity to be part of it.''

Three hydropower dams are planned for the
Salween. Egat has sought cabinet approval to develop two dams, the Upper and Lower Salween dams, at an estimated cost of 200 billion baht, while MDX Plc, a Thai construction outfit, has begun work on a 3,600-megawatt dam near Ta Sang in Burma's Shan state.

MDX executives say Ta Sang dam would be the largest hydropower dam in
Southeast Asia. It also would be the first dam built on the 2,800km Salween.

Egat's 4,500MW Upper and 800MW
Lower Salween dams are located adjacent to Mae Sariang district in Mae Hong Son province, where the river forms a natural 130km section of the border.

A preliminary study by
Japan's Electric Power Development Co Ltd in the early 1990s identified five potential dam sites. Egat opted for the two border locations because it was thought it would be much easier to seek investment funds from financial institutions.

"Investors and financial institutions would probably be reluctant to invest in the projects if they were located on Burmese soil,'' Mr Sittiporn said. "They might also be uncomfortable dealing directly with the military junta. The projects would be more attractive if the Thai government were a co-investor.''

Mr Sittiporn is determined to have the dams go ahead after they were put on hold almost a decade ago because of tighter funding at Egat.

He pledged soon after his appointment in October to also push ahead with the Asean Power Grid project, which calls for a transmission network linking the region's power sources. These sources include the immense hydropower potential of
Burma, northern Laos and southern China and the substantial fossil fuel reserves of Malaysia and Indonesia. The network would facilitate power exchanges and energy trading among Asean member countries.

"The dream of the Asean Power Grid cannot be realised without the Upper and Lower Salween dams,'' Mr Sittiporn said, adding that he had persuaded Asean leaders attending a conference of major power producers in Japan in November to support the power grid.

He then travelled to
Rangoon, where he secured backing for the project from the head of Burma's Electric Power Department. He also accompanied Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the Greater Mekong Sub-region Summit in Cambodia in November, where he again promoted the power grid.

Mr Sittiporn also has tried to convince Pongthep Thepkanchana, the energy minister, the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Energy Committee of the merits of the scheme. Egat is tying its push for the
Salween dams to the Asean Power Grid.

Mr Sittiporn expects construction of the dams to begin in 2007 and electricity generation to start in 2012. He said Egat was prepared to buy the entire electricity output for onward sale to
Malaysia and Indonesia, which are forecast to become net importers of electricity by 2010.

He said Egat was prepared to fund the entire project if there were financial constraints on
Burma _ "We may have to put up the money first through our capital or by issuing bonds.'' He said Egat had allocated 30 to 40 billion baht for investment in the project.

Energy Minister Pongthep announced in January that he would ask the Finance Ministry to consider investing in the project. Negotiations with the Burmese government are the next step.

Mr Thaksin declared his support for the dams after visiting
Burma in February. He also announced during a visit to the Egat headquarters that the Salween dams were essential elements in plans by eight Asean members to develop a power grid, and they should go ahead despite the concerns about the possible environmental and social impact.

These concerns have been voiced by senators, environmentalists, human rights activists and advocates of ethnic groups based in
Thailand and Burma.

And the early indications are this could well be one of the more interesting anti-development campaigns to date. The project involves so many different issues from Thailand-Burma relations to ethnic cleansing, forced labour and rape, to the assault on the environment.

Burma's opposition National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi and 69 Thai and Burmese NGOs submitted a letter in December to Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, demanding that the government scrap the project.

"The Salween dams are large-scale projects which will have major impacts on communities in the area,'' the letter read. ``Whether the dams are built in Shan state or on the Thai-Burmese border, they will involve human rights violations. Up until now, Thai politicians, Egat and private companies have claimed that the Salween River Basin is not populated. In fact, over 10 million people of 13 different ethnicities are living in the basin and relying on the river, which is one of the richest river ecosystems in the world.''

Salween Watch, a Chiang Mai-based non-governmental organisation, reported recently that over 300,000 Shan and other ethnic people had been forced to relocate from central Shan state to make way for MDX's Ta Sang dam.

Sai Sai, a Tai villager who takes refuge in Thailand and works as a volunteer for an NGO, pleaded with the Thai government to stop taking advantage of Burma's lack of democracy and its disregard for human rights and the environment for its own benefit.

Bangkok's decision to go ahead with the Upper and Lower Salween dams will lead to further hardship for a huge number of ethnic people, similar to those who have been relocated to make way for or forced to work without pay on MDX's Ta Sang dam, he said. "These ethnic people will have no choice but to take refuge in Thailand," Sai Sai said.

Senator Kraisak said the project would exacerbate the problem of illegal labour and refugees. There are already more than four million Burmese immigrants living illegally in
Thailand.

He also warned that the government would come in for international condemnation if it decided to do business with the Burmese military junta.

"The government should scrap the project for the sake of the nation's image." he said. "Do not repeat past governments' mistakes of developing the Thai-Burmese gas pipeline project."

Environmentalists, most of whom are based in Chiang Mai province, say the Upper and
Lower Salween dams would cause major damage to the river's rich biodiversity and the lush forest of the Salween river basin. The dams would be much larger than the Bhumibhol dam in nearby Tak province.

The
Salween river originates high in the Tibetan mountains, flows through China's Yunnan province into Burma, and then forms the border between Thailand and Burma before emptying into the Andaman sea. It is Southeast Asia's second largest river, after the Mekong, and the world's 26th longest.

A preliminary study by the Chiang Mai-based NGO, Southeast Asia Rivers Network, found the dams' reservoirs would divide the
Salween wildlife sanctuary and national park on Thailand's western border, arguably Southeast Asia's most fertile forest. The report said the forest was a habitat to several rare animal and plant species common to the area.

Supakit Nantaworakarn, an independent energy researcher, also argued against the dams on energy grounds, claiming they were superfluous to the nation's needs.

"Due to the economic situation in Thailand, the power demand has slowed significantly,'' he said. "Thailand currently has power reserves of around 40%, which makes the project implementation absolutely nonsensical.''

Mr Supakit did not take up the matter of Egat planning to sell the electricity generated by the dams to
Malaysia and Indonesia.

Mr Sittiporn accepted the point that there was currently enough electricity but claimed that without the dams,
Thailand would lose a cheap source of energy and users would pay more for power.

About 20,000 rai of pristine forest in
Thailand would be lost to the dams if the project goes ahead, he said. How much forest would be flooded in Burma cannot be determined until field surveys and an environmental impact assessment are carried out after an agreement is reached by the Thai and Burmese governments.

The Egat governor said an agreement with
Burma on the Salween project would probably come later this year.

He said he had tried to allay environmentalists' fears by promising that Egat would not hesitate to cancel the project if studies by reliable bodies showed the social and environmental damage would be too severe.
"We are not such an obstinate agency.''

Environmentalists do not look mollified. Many are gearing up for the battle to protect the Salween and the ethnic groups whose lives depend on it despite their already busy agendas, made up of, among other things, the opposition to blasting of reefs along the Mekong river to widen and deepen the navigation channel.

They promise to form a broad coalition of groups from
Thailand and abroad, ushering in just the latest chapter of protest against dam building in Thailand.

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


2.  DAM - A COVER-UP FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF STRATEGIC ROAD BY BURMA TO CONTAIN SHAN MILITANTS.

 

Asian Tribune, 24 April 2003

 

The construction of the Dam on the Salween project is only a cover up to build a strategic road of 100miles long to contain the Shan militants in the area. According to an observer's account: "It will be part of the strategy to hem in the Shan State Army, active in the area and eventually force it to submission." The dam on the Salween project in Shan State has enabled Rangoon to build a strategic highway aimed at containing the recalcitrant Shan rebels along the border, according to a long-time border watcher in Thailand.

 

The officer, who holds a military rank, told S.H.A.N. since signing up the Tasarng hydroelectric power plant agreement with Thailand's MDX Co. on 20 December, the Burmese army had been busy sending up engineering units and construction equipment from Rangoon to Mongton Township on the eastern side of the Salween.

 

Their mission was to "bulldoze" a dirt track leading from Tasarng along the steep eastern bank to Ta Sopharng, the mouth of the Harng where it joins the Salween, and turn southeast through Loi Khilek and Mongjawd to Nakawngmu and Thailand's Nawng Ook village in Chiangdao district, bypassing Mongton altogether. The road, reportedly for the use of the MDX and the construction company to be chosen by it, after completion, will roughly be half as long as the existing thoroughfare that goes through Mongton (100 miles).

 

The MDX officials, who have been at the dam site since 21 January, had already inspected the ongoing operation on 31 March, according to a Burmese report obtained by a border source.

 

Overall security is being provided by Military Operations Command #17, commanded by Brig-Gen Nyunt Hlaing, stationed at Mongpan on the west bank, said the officer.

 

"It will be part of the strategy to hem in the Shan State Army (that is active in the area) and eventually force it to submission."

 

An observer remarked that explain why the anticipated military assaults against Shan bases in the area had been long overdue. "Last year operations against the Shans were already in full swing in April, a month before the battle of Pang Maisoong (20 May-20 June 2002)," he added.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


3. BURMA TO GET POWER STATION (summary)

 

Bangkok Post, 11 August 2003

 

Burma's military government and a Chinese company have agreed to build a US$150-million hydroelectric dam in the country's north.

 

According to the New Light of Myanmar, under the deal signed, Yunnan Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation will build the Shweli power station during a period of three years.

 

The report did not say when construction would begin on the project in Namkhan, 790km north of Rangoon. The 400-megawatt power station will generate 3,042 million units of electricity annually, it said.

 

Burma is facing an energy crisis die to rising local demand coupled with a shortage of foreign-exchange reserves needed to buy fuel for electricity generators. Total national output of electricity is 580MW an hour, which is about 220MW short of the country's electric needs.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


4.  THAILAND TO LOBBY MYANMAR FOR SALWEEN POWER PROJECT

 

Dow Jones Newswires, 24 April 2003

 

BANGKOK (Dow Jones)--Thailand will lobby Myanmar to push ahead with the 200 billion baht (US$1=THB42.79) Salween hydro power project at the Asean summit in Bangkok next week, the Business Times reports, quoting the governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

 

Officials from the Energy Ministry will hold unofficial talks with delegates from Myanmar at the summit, said EGAT governor Sitthiporn Ratanopas.

 

The April 29 meeting of leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be held in Bangkok to exchange information and ideas on how to prevent the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

 

"The project will help stabilize the electricity supply situation of both countries," Sitthiporn told reporters.

 

However, Thailand's current capacity to produce electricity is in excess of electricity consumption. In March, peak demand hit 17,222.2 megawatts, compared with installed capacity at 25,602.8 MW, or more than 30% in excess capacity.

 

The cost of building the hydro project in Myanmar will be equally shared between the two nations through EGAT and Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise. The new entity to be set up will be named Thai Myanmar Hydro Power, the report says.

 

The project, consisting of five dams along the Salween River, is expected to have a generation capacity of 20,000 MW a year at an average cost of THB0.90 per unit, 17% lower than Myanmar's current average cost. This could translate into a saving of THB30 billion a year for Myanmar, the report says. The project will enable the country to sell its excess electricity to Thailand and other neighboring countries, such as China, Laos and Cambodia, through Thailand's power-distribution network.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


5. TROOPS SURVEY DAM IMPACTS (summary)

 

Bangkok Post, 7 August 2003

 

Border troops are assessing the likely impact of two dams on communities along a 130km section of the Salween River where they would be built.

The survey is being carried out by troops from the 36th Ranger Regiment based in Mae Sariang district.

The two dams have been proposed by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. A feasibility study is now under way.

One of the dams is to be built on the border of the
Salween wildlife sanctuary. The other, known as the lower dam, would be located on the river in the Salween national park.

Initial estimates showed that about 1,000 people on both sides of the river, five Burmese army bases and two Karen National Union rebel bases would be affected.

Lt-Col Ji Gor of the KNU has voiced strong opposition to the projects, saying they would have tremendous effects on the livelihood of Karen people along the border.

"The KNU won't allow dam construction on the
Salween river,'' he said.

Egat spokesman Puchong Chinpong-sanont said more studies would be needed before a final decision on the two projects was made.

"In any dam construction project, there are always pros and cons,'' Mr Puchong said."We have to take both into account.''

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX

 

6. PM WANTS KAREN PEOPLE, STORED LOGS MOVED OUT

 

Talk of missing teak `premature', he says

YUWADEE TUNYASIRI, Bangkok Post, 25 April 2003

 

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered the relocation of Karen refugees from Salween forest in Mae Hong Son along with thousands of seized teak logs stored there, to prevent further illegal timber felling.

 

On Tuesday, cabinet appointed Deputy Prime Minister Suvit Khunkitti to chair a panel to investigate the fate of about 5,000 teak logs confiscated and left in the jungle after the 1997 Salween logging scandal.

 

On the same day, Mr Thaksin said he wanted the remaining logs stored in one place for display so the people could see the result of forest destruction.

 

A total of 33,884 logs were seized in the Salween national park and wildlife sanctuary in 1997-2002.

 

Of them, 15,485 logs were sold by the Forestry Department to the Forest Industry Organisation in 1997 and about 13,200 logs were kept in the provincial forestry office's storage sites. That left more than 5,000 logs unaccounted for.

 

The prime minister said Karen refugees must be moved out of Salween forest where the impounded logs remained, since these people had poached logs in the past.

 

Agencies must find a new home for these refugees. There was no need to wait for consent from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as Thailand was an independent state.

 

He would ask the Suvit-led team, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Agriculture Ministry, military and police to count the remaining logs in Salween forest and have them hauled out.

 

"There is no need for arguments now about whether some logs are missing. When they are moved out, we can check if they are all there. The missing logs can be tracked down,'' Mr Thaksin said.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX

 

7. BURMESE REFUGEES TO SHIFT FROM SALWEEN (summary)

 

Bangkok Post, 02 July 2003

 

Cabinet yesterday approved a plan to move 13,000 Burmese hilltribe refugees out of the Salween forest within the next two months.

Deputy Prime Minister Suvit Khunkitti who chairs a committee dealing with the problems of forest destruction, war refugees and hilltribes, said they will be relocated to degraded forest areas in Ban Mae La Un village in Mae Hong Son's Sop Moei district.

More than 111,000 Burmese refugees are being housed in nine camps in Mae Hong Son, Tak, Ratchaburi and Kanchanaburi provinces and are seen as a serious threat to forests.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


8. BURMESE TO BE SHIFTED FROM CAMP (summary)

 

Bangkok Post, 3 August 2003

 

Authorities concerned are gearing up to relocate 16,000 Burmese refugees from a camp close to Salween forest in Mae Sariang district in attempts to end deforestation.

Governor Supoj Laowansiri said 16,857 refugees at Ban Kongkha-Sala camp would be moved to Ban Mae La Un village in Sop Moei district in October-December.

 A new venue covering 800 rai of land in Ban Mae La Un is about four kilometres away from the Thai-Burmese border.

The governor said relocation costs of 22 million baht would be met by international NGOs.

The aim was to stop deforestation and illegal logging in
Salween forest and keep the refugees safe from flooding.

A representative from UNHCR, however, urged authorities to consider other venues, saying Ban Mae La Un might not be suitable because it used to be a bastion of the Karen National Union and was too close to the border.

Maj Rudej Kasemrat, chief of civilian affairs from the 36th rangers regiment, gave assurances that Ban Mae La Un, under the regiment's supervision, was safe.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


9. KRAISAK URGES GOVT TO ABANDON PROJECT

 

Forest at risk as local residents `get no say'

APIRADEE TREERUTKUARKUL, Bangkok Post, 25 April 2003

 

The Senate foreign affairs panel has criticised the government for pressing ahead with its plan to build a hydro-powered dam on the Thai-Burmese border.

 

Chairman Kraisak Choonhavan said the panel disagreed with the government's decision to go ahead with construction of the Salween dam, a joint Thai-Burmese project, for fear it would cause damage to the country in the long term.

 

Half the project cost of 200 billion baht would be borne by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. The Burmese government will pay for the rest.

 

The panel fears the project would lead to increased forest poaching at Salween national park and along the Thai-Burmese border since forestry officials have no control over logging concessions in the area.

 

The Salween dam project showed the government had no sincere intention of protecting the country's last teak forest, Mr Kraisak said.

 

He added that the project also violated the rights of local residents as the government had never asked them whether or not they wanted a dam in the area.

 

The panel urged the government to cancel its contract with Burma. Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej is due to discuss construction plans with Burmese government representatives on Tuesday.

 

"It's not too late yet for the government to reconsider the pros and cons of the project,'' said Mr Kraisak. "It would bring more damage than benefits to the country in the long run.''

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


 10. HELP NEEDED IN SOCIAL AREA, SAYS SURAKIART (summary)

 

BHANRAVEE TANSUBHAPOL ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT, Bangkok Post, 29 April 2003

 

The European Union, the United States and international organisations should help Burma on humanitarian grounds, says Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

 

Speaking after meeting Razali Ismail, UN special envoy on Burma, Mr Surakiart said he also urged Mr Razali to work with the Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other western countries to help Burma with its economy and social issues.

 

"The Burmese government is heading towards national reconciliation, so we must help it develop on political front. However, we cannot neglect humanitarian issues such as HIV-Aids,'' he said.

 

Mr Surakiart said Thailand was ready to act as co-ordinator to persuade countries in the region such as India, Laos and Cambodia to help Burma respond to Aids and Sars.

 

Editors note: This push from the Thai government for international help for Burma, dealing especially with organisations like the Asian Development Bank, is a way for Thailand to boost economic development projects between the countries, like the Salween dam projects.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX


11.  KRAISAK WARNS DAMS MAY BLUR BORDERLINE

 

Rights violations were also likely

 

WASANT TECHAWONGTHAM, Bangkok Post, 29 April 2003 

 

The planned construction of Salween dams would change the Thai-Burmese borderline and therefore require deliberation by parliament, the chairman of the Senate committee on foreign affairs said yesterday.

 

"The boundaries would definitely change,'' said Kraisak Choonhavan. ``The dams would create large reservoirs. How could we then tell where the Thai-Burmese border is?

 

"It is a matter that parliament will have to consider.''

 

Mr Kraisak said he would discuss the matter with the National Security Council, which he believed would be concerned.

 

The NSC had expressed similar concern over the planned blasting of rapids, reefs and shoals in the Mekong river to widen and deepen the navigation channel for use by large cargo barges from China.

 

Blasting was scheduled to begin on the Mekong on the Thai side on April 15 but was suspended after the Defence Ministry expressed concern over the potential boundary change.

 

Thailand and Burma have achieved less than 1% in talks on setting the boundaries, Mr Kraisak said. The current border settlement was largely an unofficial agreement between the military authorities of the two countries.

 

If the dams issue was referred to parliament it would likely complicate the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand's plan to build two dams on the 130km section of the Salween river that marks the Thai-Burmese border.

 

The first dam, called the upper dam, would be on the border of the Salween wildlife sanctuary and able to generate 4,540 megawatts of power. The lower dam on the Salween national park would generate 792 megawatts. Together, they would flood about 20,000 rai of prime forestland on the Thai side and about 35,000 rai on the Burmese side. They would cost an estimated 277 billion baht (US$6.15 billion).

 

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, a member of the National Advisory Council on Economic and Social Development, said the upper dam would create a reservoir 380km long.

 

Mr Witoon questioned the amount of land, which would be flooded by the proposed dams. The Bhumibol dam inundated over 100,000 rai of land but the Salween dam would be six times larger in terms of capacity.

 

The two men were speaking while on a three-day inspection trip of the planned dam construction area in Mae Sariang district. They were accompanied by Senator Imron Maluleem, Pho Luang Joni Odorshao, a national advisory council member, and Sunee Chairot, a national human rights commissioner, among others.

 

Mr Kraisak said since the project would require consent and participation by the Burmese government, human rights violations relating to the project were likely and would affect Thai-Burmese relations.

 

He said his trip was also aimed at ensuring that local people were aware of their constitutional right to participate in the decision-making process of any project that affected their lives.

 

"It is every senator's duty to monitor all matters that affect the country. What's important is not simply public relations but public participation,'' he said.

 

"There has yet to be a single project that respects the public's right to participation as stated in section 56 of the constitution. I hope this project will be the first to allow the public full participation.''

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX

 

 

12.  PAST ERRORS MAKE NO IMPRESSION ON EGAT

 

WASANT TECHAWONGTHAM, Bangkok Post, 2 May 2003

 

Mawee, a Karen woman in her 50s, was squatting with a group of neighbours outside an open-aired hall that was hosting a group of visitors from Bangkok.

 

The visitors were led by Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign affairs. They would like to know what Mawee and her neighbours had to say about a plan to build two dams on Salween river. One of them would be quite close to Ban Ta Fang, a riverside village where 78 Karen families have their homes.

 

But Mawee and her group of friends knew too little to give an opinion. It was only through word of mouth that they had heard that a dam would be built. A team of surveyors had been seen working near her village. But she had no idea how it would affect her.

 

When told that her farmland and home could be flooded and she might have to move elsewhere, she looked apprehensive yet a smile never left her face. Then she asked: ``But where could we go? What could we do for a living?''

 

Mawee was not the only one to have professed ignorance of the plan. Local authorities including park officials and the Mae Sariang district chief said they knew little more than that surveyors from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand had been working in the area.

 

Most residents of Mae Sariang, the district in Mae Hong Son situated between the two potential dam sites, also have been told little. But that did not prevent some local entrepreneurs organising a rally at the hotel where the Bangkok visitors were staying to demand that the dams be built.

 

They said they wanted the more stable supply of electricity and jobs and income that the construction was expected to create. Some conceded, though, that they knew too little to form an opinion on whether they wanted the dams.

 

It is a matter of speculation whether Egat has given out selective information to selected groups of people in the area and if its employees were involved in the organisation of the rally.

 

What is clear is that Egat has yet to indicate how it would go about ensuring that local people and the general public are fully informed of its plan and involved in its implementation.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX

 

 

13. MONEY SQUANDERED BY 'POOR PREPARATION"(summary)

Board warns of huge social, economic costs

 

PREEYANAT PHANAYANGGOOR -Bangkok Post, 16 April 2003

 

The majority of large-scale state infrastructural projects are poorly managed from the start, causing huge economic and social losses to the country, according to National Economic and Social Development Board Secretary-General Chakramon Phasukvanich.

A board study had found many unimplemented mega-projects such as the 100-billion-baht Hopewell elevated road, the 19-billion-baht Mor Chit development project, the 52-billion-baht Bo Nok-Hin Krut coal-fired power plants and the 40-billion-baht Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline were the result of mismanagement at the preparation stage.

 Several mega-projects already completed were also facing problems at the operational stage, including the Mae Moh lignite-fired power plant and Pak Moon dam, which were being utilised at less than half of full capacity.

Also, some projects had been left inactive after completion, including hundreds of community wastewater treatment plants and rubbish incinerator projects across the country.

"In the future, Thailand will definitely face electricity and water scarcity if most large-scale infrastructural projects are still badly managed and poorly designed," Mr Chakramon said.

"Water will be in short supply in 20 years while electricity will be insufficient in less than 10 years,'' he said.

"We cannot afford to have all mega-projects involving dams and power plants delayed or scrapped.''

Mr Chakramon suggested a master plan on infrastructure development strategy be laid down to avoid a scarcity of resources in the future.

In order to make these large projects acceptable to the public, all schemes must be carefully designed based on good governance, transparency, integrity and accountability.

Feasibility studies, environmental and social impact studies should be independently conducted and widely reported. Local residents should be consulted at the preparation stage to make them part of the decision-making process, he said.

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX

 

 

14.  TOO MANY PROJECTS GONE BUST (summary)

 

KAMOL HENGKIETISAL -Bangkok Post, 20 April 2003

 

Thailand has experienced several expensive lessons, worth hundreds of billions of baht, in implementing mega-projects over the years. The economic and opportunity losses, not to mention the "stupidity" losses, are incalculable, said a Thai Rath analysis.

 

It is not only the money outlays that have been sunk into the projects. The opportunities lost to develop the country, to raise competitiveness and to better the living standard of the Thai people are hard to quantify.

 

The mistakes made on these mega-projects include inadequate preparation of the project feasibility studies, corruption and in transparency in implementing the projects and adverse impacts to the environment and local people.

 

Boh Nok, Hin Krut and Mae Moh Failures

Upon initiation of EGAT's Independent Power Producer program, in order to cope with anticipated continual growth of electricity consumption from over a decade ago, the IPP program allowed private investors to construct and run power plants.

The Boh Nok and Hin Krut projects in Prachuab Khiri Khan faced opposition from the start, as coal was the planned energy source, the most polluting form of energy to the environment. EGAT and project investors did not gauge the reactions of the local opposition until it was too late and the locals no longer trusted the investors.

Both projects are still facing uncertainty as to where they should be used. Locals' fears are based on a failed project in Mae Moh where residents faced toxic pollution from the coal plant.

 

22-Billion Baht Wastewater Treatment Plant

The 2.2 billion baht wastewater treatment plant planned for Samut Prakan province is another project that turned bad.

The project proceeded for six years, from 1997-2002, and was near completion when the government, which decided to scrap the contract and withhold the last payment of 2 billion baht, terminated it.

The project generated controversy from the very beginning. There was fierce local opposition due to adverse environmental impacts to the area. There was irregularity in the land acquisition, resulting in inflated land price. There was also a change from the original proposal of building two treatment plants, to one big plant, making it expensive to run.

 

Other projects gone bust include: the rail-road Hopewell project, Morchit provincial bus terminal project, the Bang-na-Chon Buri expressway, JDA pipeline project and the Pak Moon Dam. 

 

If future mega-projects face problems like those in the past, it will certainly hamper the country's economic development and the basic infrastructures will be inadequate. Projects must have not only a traditional environmental impact study (EIA), but a social impact study (SIA) as well, and of course, the studies must have local participation.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX

 

 

15. INDIA SCOUTS FOR EXPLORATION PROJECTS IN MYANMAR (summary)

 

Asian Tribune, 2 May 2003

 

New Delhi (IANS) May 01: India is scouting for more oil and gas exploration

prospects in neighbouring Myanmar.

 

A delegation of officials from India's petroleum ministry and top oil firms visited the hydrocarbon-rich country from April 21-24 to identify new areas of co-operation.

 

The delegation had representatives of the petroleum ministry, ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL), the overseas arm of exploration major Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), gas infrastructure major GAIL (India) Ltd. as well as oil refining and marketing majors Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL).

 

Being geographically contiguous, India and Myanmar see tremendous possibility of enhancing co-operation in the oil and gas sector.

 

GAIL, which holds 10 percent stake in the A-1 block on the western side of Myanmar extending 3,885 square metres off the Rakhine coast, is currently studying the possibility of bringing gas from the block through an undersea pipeline to meet domestic demand.

 

Daewoo International holds management control of the block with 60 percent equity while OVL holds 20 percent stake and Kogas of South Korea 10 percent.

 

"Survey of the exploration block has revealed the hydrocarbon reserves to be as expected. The drilling of exploration wells is expected to begin by November after further surveys have been carried out," the petroleum ministry official said.

 

GAIL, in a report on the proposed pipeline project, informed the petroleum ministry that the A-1 block has gas reserves of 32 trillion cubic feet (tcf, or 907 billion cubic metres, or bcm) and recoverable gas reserves of 22 tcf (625 bcm).

 

Editors note: Note that the Yetagun gas field has proven reserves of 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, while the Yadana gas field has 5 trillion cubic feet of reserves.  This new proposed project is much larger with the A-1 block of gas reserves of 32 trillion cubic feet.

 

With the proposed pipeline project, there has been increased Indian engagement with Burma. This project will be able to supply Burma's thermal power stations, and Burma's energy crisis could be relieved. Burma will be in a stronger position with Thailand if this project goes through, as they will have less of a need for working with Thailand on energy projects, giving Burma the upper hand in relations.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX

 

 

16. CABINET GIVES GREEN LIGHT FOR RATIFICATION OF POWER ACCORD

 

KULTIDA SAMABUDDHI -Bangkok Post, 5 June 2003

 

Cabinet has given the go-ahead for the ratification of a power supply pact between the six Greater Mekong Subregion countries.

The cabinet on Oct 8 last year endorsed the draft Inter-Governmental Agreement on Regional Power Trade in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) on the six countries' collaboration on a power supply and production network.

The cooperation is aimed at enhancing the countries' economic relations and environmental protection. The bloc is made up of Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Among the projects that could become part of the scheme are the proposed construction of dams on the Salween river that are mostly in Burma but has a section running along the Thai-Burmese border.

Last year's revelation by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand that it planned to build two massive dams on the river with cooperation from the Burmese government has generated great concern from environmentalists and human rights advocates.

A group of academics and senators urged the government and Egat to abandon the plan to co-invest with Burma's military junta in the construction of the 277-billion-baht Salween dams, saying it was too risky to collaborate with such an unstable and dictatorial government.

"The Thai government and Egat should beware that they are going to do business with the most unpredictable military junta. There is no guarantee that the Rangoon government would respect the benefit-sharing agreement when the dams are completed,'' said Pornpimon Trichot, of Chulalongkorn University's Institute of Asia Studies.

If built, the dams would bring endless problems to Thailand, particularly Egat, Mrs Pornpimon said. She was speaking at the launch of a new book: The Salween Dams: Tragedy of Two Lands.

The book, which focuses on possible social and environmental impacts from the Salween dams, was co-produced by environmental, human rights and non-governmental organisations, including the Southeast Asia River Networks, Earth Rights International, Friends Without Borders, and Shan Herald Agency for News. Mrs Pornpimon also feared for the future of 13 ethnic groups living in the Salween river basin who she said would lose everything if the construction was allowed to go ahead.

In recent years, she said, the military has executed massive forced relocation programmes in the vicinity of the proposed dam sites.
"The dams would seriously damage the livelihood of ethnic groups in Thailand and Burma. Claims by both the Egat and the military junta that only a few people existed in the flooded areas are untrue,'' she said.

Under the project the 4,540-megawatt and 792-megawatt dams would be built opposite the Thai district of Mae Sariang in Mae Hong Son.

Senator Nirand Pitakwatchara, member of the Senate panel on public participation, said the project was only good for creating conflicts, citing a report that Egat has already started giving funds to Mae Hong Son residents and launched a
"propaganda campaign'' to obtain a green light from the locals.

 

XXxx<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<o0XxxX0o>>>>>>>>>>>>>>xxXX