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Northern locals outrage at governor’s secret meetings on controversial dams

An anti-dam committee in Northern Thailand has submitted complaints over the provincial governor’s secret meetings to construct controversial dams in the area.

By Prachatai

Phrae Province, Thailand, September 4, 2015

Prachatai

An anti-dam committee in Northern Thailand has submitted complaints over the provincial governor’s secret meetings to construct controversial dams in the area.

Villagers in Sa-iap Subdistrict, Song District, Phrae Province in northern Thailand are outraged at the revelation that the governor has been pushing for dam construction on the Yom River.

In the morning of 19 August 2015, an anti-dam committee with members from four villages in the area met to respond to the governor’s actions. About a hundred villagers were in attendance. The four villages represented were: Ban Don Chai village, Ban Don Chai Sak Thong village, Baan Don Kaew village, and Baan Mae Ten village.

Phisanu Soi-ngoen, one of the committee’s leaders, said that after an investigation it was revealed that the governor of Phrae had been in secret meetings to push for dam construction. Phisanu also presented proof of these meetings in the form of documents. The most recent meeting had been the 5th.

In 2014, the 4-villages anti-dam committee submitted a letter to local authorities to oppose dam construction and received official reassurances from the Ministry of Interior’s Damrong Tham Centre, a centre which accepts public complaints, that the project had been cancelled. In addition, there had been a national water management strategic meeting in Phitsanulok on 18 August 2015, the results of which were that there would be no plan for major dams on the Yom River for the next decade.

Therefore, the revelation about the governor’s secret meetings had effectively betrayed the locals and destroyed their trust. The anti-dam committee condemned the governor’s actions as “two-faced” deliberate concealment of necessary information regarding the area. Phisanu mentioned that the governor’s secret meetings also included a request for advice from the governor of Uttaradit Province on evacuating villagers. Earlier, the Uttaradit governor had initiated the Pa Juk dam project.

Somming Mueangrong, another committee leader, called for the governor to halt the discussions, and to release the content of these secret meetings. Somming said that he will present an official complaint to the Ministry of Interior’s Damrong Tham Centre and the Prime Minister to request a halt to dam construction on the Yom.

The proposed complaint also includes 14 reasons to not build dams on the Yom, backed by research. These include: that the proposed dams cannot solve flood problems; that the proposed dams will destroy the world’s largest naturally existing golden teak forests and other valuable tree species in a forest area of 41,000 rai; that no forests are planned to be grown to compensate for the destroyed trees; that local livelihoods will be destroyed; that the proposed dams will be on a fault line; and that the proposed dams will not even produce electricity for the area.

The complaint also includes 14 suggestions on better ways to solve the flooding problem that do not involve dams. Suggestions include: preservation and enlargement of the existing forests; implementation of a dike system; and construction of rainwater retention areas for each village so that local water sources are more readily available.

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