A weekly update of news, commentary and resources on Mekong development projects, investment, EIAs and other development issues. We include a balanced and representative range of news and views from local, regional and global sources. The Digest reaches around 3500 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.
Burma’s State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi will meet with Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to discuss bilateral issues focused on trade and economic cooperation during her visit to Thailand on 23-25 June. Meanwhile, the Thai government has announced yet again plans to put the long-delayed Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project higher on its agenda.
In 2012, Suu Kyi visited Thailand on her first trip outside of Burma in 24 years. She met with Burmese migrant workers in Mahachai, Samut Sakhon province, which has the largest migrant community in Thailand. At that time, she promised to do her best to improve the country’s economy so that migrant workers would have jobs to return home to in Burma.
Non-governmental organisations on Tuesday called on Aung San Suu Kyi to put on hold two projects with Thailand during her visit to the country.
As the government is preparing for her first visit to Thailand as foreign minister and state counsellor, 23 non-governmental groups are also making their move against attempts by the host Thailand to ink deals with Mrs Suu Kyi during her three-day trip.
“As one of the leaders in the Myanmar government, we urge you to suspend decisions on any projects, pending the completion of strategic and transboundary impact assessments; and allow people to make informed decisions, ensuring transparent and accountable investments, which mutually benefit both Thailand and Myanmar,” they said in a statement.
Sitting in the courtyard of his home in Lopburi Province, 180 kilometers north of Bangkok, Saichol Thanomsak remembers what life was like for the nearly 600 people in Moo 3 Village before Asia’s largest thin-film photovoltaic solar energy project moved in nearby. Land was not fertile and jobs were scarce, forcing breadwinners to seek employment elsewhere. For those who remained, life could be grim.
“The armed forces use nearby fields for firing practice and villagers would collect artillery shells for scrap metal,” he says. “Sometimes they blew up and there were many injuries. Today, we don’t have to take such risks. Our village benefits greatly from the solar plant. It has allowed so many of us to stay home and make a decent living.”
In a world of galloping hydro-power rapidly engulfing the developing world and new dams popping up in the Amazon, the Congo and along the Mekong, it is hard to find any important river left in the world, that has escaped unscathed and undammed.
The free-flowing Salween is the last important undammed river in East Asia, where endangered species including tigers and clouded leopards can still be found in remote parts of Myanmar’s ethnic Karen State.
From the snow-capped mountains of Tibet, the Salween rushes through steep gorges in Yunnan Province and flows through four of Myanmar’s ethnic states before emptying into the Andaman Sea.
THE MEKONG RIVER Commission (MRC) does not have the authority to stop projects even if they have transboundary effects, delegates to the fourth Green Mekong Forum said on Monday, while the Thai Irrigation Department presented a water diversion project to fight poverty.
Around 100 delegates from Mekong River countries and international observers attended the forum in Bangkok to follow the latest developments in infrastructure and water resource management in the Mekong River Region.
Dam Chan handed over the food in exchange for riel as she described hearing the loud bangs of dynamite in the distance.
The 55-year-old has farmed and sold food in Preah Rumkel commune her entire life and is concerned about the future of her home now that construction on the nearby Don Sahong Hydropower Dam has started to affect the local wildlife, and subsequently the lives of those residing near the Lao border.
THE ECOLOGY of the Mekong River could be destroyed within 10 years if dam projects along the river are allowed to continue, Thai and Cambodian non-government organisations have warned.
They have also warned that it will be very difficult for people to claim compensation for projects’ negative impacts on the environment and their livelihoods because it will be not difficult if not impossible to clearly link the effects to a particular dam.
Extensive irrigated agriculture in Northeast Thailand has long been a dream of the Royal Irrigation Department (RID). Over the decades, various visions have been expounded but never fulfilled, including the Green Isan Project in the early 1980s, the Khong-Chi-Mun Project in the late 1980s and 1990s, and the Water Grid Project in the early 2000s. Local communities and civil society have often challenged these projects, questioning the project’s economics and potential environmental and social impacts.
Recently, the RID has reinvigorated its irrigation plans through the “Mekong-Loei-Chi-Mun River Management and Diversion by Gravity in the Northeast” project. It entails diverting water from the Mekong River’s mainstream into the Loei River in Northeastern Thailand, which would then be connected via tunnels to the Chi and Mun Rivers.
Located at the end of the Mekong River basin, the Mekong Delta in Vietnam is currently experiencing the most severe drought and salinity intrusion in 100 years.
According to experts, the principal reason is development activities in GMS countries related to the use of the Mekong River’s water resources, including the operation and construction of mega-dams along the river as well as water diversion for agricultural purposes.