ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Pak Moon dam decision delayed
The Thai cabinet yesterday angered more than 1,000 protesters in front of Government House when it postponed by 45 days a decision on whether to allow the permanent opening of the Pak Mun Dam sluice gates for five years.
The two key demands of the P-Move protesters, who have been camped out on Bangkok's streets for about a month, are the yearlong opening of the Ubon Ratchathani dam and the quick issuance of community land-title deeds.
An informed source said four academics, including Nualnoi Trirat, were invited to the Cabinet meeting to present information on why the dam gates should be left open continuously for a five-year period.
The academics tried to assure ministers that the water level in the dam and the Moon River would not run too low as result of such a move.
However, the source said that when Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asked whether the protesters would agree to the sluice gates being closed if the water level dropped too low, there was no such assurance from the academics.
"Many ministers, such as Social Development and Human Security Minister Issara Somchai, Deputy Agriculture Minister Supachai Phosu and Energy Minister Wannarat Charnnukul, then expressed their opposition to the opening of the sluice gates throughout the year," the source said. Currently, the sluice gates are closed for eight months a year, leading to complaints from many locals that their livelihoods are damaged as a result.
The source quoted Issara as saying that Pak Moon Dam with its gates open for four months a year benefited many people. "If the gates were opened throughout the year, a large number of locals would take to the streets and protest," he reportedly said.
After a long debate, Abhisit suggested that a study be conducted to determine the acceptable water level for the people involved.
"The study will take 45 days," said PM's Office Minister Satit Wongnongtaey, dismissing criticism that the study was a time-buying tactic by the government.
He insisted the government had paid proper attention to P-Move's demands.
On the issue of community land-title deeds, he said the Office of the Prime Minister and relevant ministries would today sign a memorandum of understanding on the matter. "The prime minister will preside over the signing."
He believed the memorandum would facilitate issuing of the land-title deeds.
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