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Asean Affairs   27  July  2011

Is Laos playing it straight?

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     27 July 2011

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At the recent Asean Summit, Laos apparently conceded to the wishes of its fellow members in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, to suspend operations on the proposed Xayaburi Dam. That dam is the first dam to be built on the Mekong River outside of the borders of China.

The reasons cited for the delay were the poor Environmental Impact Assessment submitted by Laos with its dam proposal and the lack of research done on the Mekong fishery that feeds millions of people that live along its banks, especially in Cambodia.

The advisory body, the Mekong River Commission, had earlier recommended a 10-year moratorium on the project because so little is known about the impact of the proposed project. However, that recommendation has no legal authority to prevent Laos or any other country from proceeding.

Now the United States has weighed in, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for a “pause” on controversial hydropower dams proposed for the Mekong main stream at a summit in Bali.

“This is a serious issue for all the countries that share the Mekong River, because if any country builds a dam, all countries will feel the consequences in terms of environmental degradation, challenges to food security, and impacts on communities,” Hillary Clinton said on Friday during a meeting between the US, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.

“I want to urge all parties to pause on any considerations to build new dams until we are all able to do a better assessment of the likely consequences.”

As many as 11 hydropower dams, nine in Lao PDR and two in Cambodia, have been proposed for the Mekong main stream.

However, letters leaked in June from the Lao Ministry of Mines and Energy and Xayaburi Power, a subsidiary of the Thai company backing the project, Ch. Karnchang, indicate that Lao PDR has given the go-ahead on a power purchasing agreement with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

Laos sees the Xayaburi dam and other proposed dams as means to raise the standard of living by becoming the “battery of Asia.” Laos is the poorest member state of Asean.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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