‘Agencies broke no laws over Mekong dam’

Construction News Laos


A Central Administrative Court judge rapporteur has suggested it will rule in favour of five state agencies accused of violating laws in their handling of the Xayaburi Dam project in Laos.

The judge opinion was the case against them be dismissed, as the five state agencies in question had not violated any laws and had fully complied with the required procedures. He said the opinion was based on two points: the legal status of the project’s Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and poor disclosure of information about the project.

In the courtroom yesterday to hear the suggestion were more than 20 plaintiffs from eight Mekong provinces who claimed they could be affected by dam projects along the Mekong River. The defendants were represented by just a few officials. Among the defendants in this case were the National Energy Policy Council, the Cabinet and the Electricity Generating Authorities of Thailand (Egat).

The judge rapporteur explained that the PPA was not a government project and was therefore not subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as the PPA was a business agreement between Thailand and Laos under a memorandum of understanding.

The court had examined the agreement details and found it required a Social and Health Impact Assessment. The project owner had already passed these procedures when it proposed the project to the Laos government. The court also said that the agencies were not required to conduct an assessment of the trans-boundary environmental and health impact.

Secondly, the judge rapporteur stated that the project was privately owned and, as a result, some information was classified. Therefore, a requirement to open all information had not been applied to this project.

Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, plaintiff lawyer from the Community Information Centre, said she was still hopeful the final verdict would be favourable to the people’s side, as the judgement on the case was still not final. “As the court agreed to judge our complaints, it was a good sign that it understood the people’s burden from the dam, even though our laws do not totally protect us on the trans-border environmental impact issue,” Rattanamanee said.

The judge admitted that some of the issues in this case, such as private sector investment in a foreign country, were not under jurisdiction of the Administrative Court and it had no power to judge such cases.

The Supreme Administrative Court accepted the lawsuit against the five defendants on June 2014, after the Administrative Court denied it had the jurisdiction to hear the case in February 2013.

Xayaburi Dam is the first dam to be built on the lower Mekong mainstream. Construction of the dam is spearheaded by Ch Karnchang, a Thai construction company, and funded by six Thai banks. The project began in 2010 and is now 70-per-cent complete. Egat will buy 95 per cent of its generated power.


Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/Agencies-broke-no-laws-over-Mekong-dam-30274055.html