By  Flower of Salween

15th November 2018

Thailand is progressive for the public participation on implementation large development projects which require developers conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) before implement projects. Moreover, the right of public participation is guaranteed by the 2017 Thai constitution, section 57 and 58 on Local wisdom, arts, culture, traditions, custom, environment and natural resources. The state must allow people [communities] to participate in both public hearings and decision-making because they are key stakeholders and to have benefit sharing and sustainable development.

After the flood. Photo by Mekong Youth Assembly

Who knows that the advancement of human rights protection in Thailand causes human rights violation by Thai investors in neighboring countries because they [investors] choose to invest in the countries where there is weak law enforcement related to human rights such as in Laos, Myanmar or Cambodia.

On the day of July 23rd, 2018, the sadness, loss and fear of brother-sisterhoods occurred in Laos. The Xepian Xe Nam Noy dam collapsed caused more than 6,600 people faced tragedy and losing their loves from this dam collapsed disaster; and there still many unknown numbers are missing. This tragedy did not only cause the loss in Laos (BBC, 2018), but it also affected to another country like in Cambodia.

“The government of Laos believes some people who are now missing might flow with tons of water, so Lao government has sent letter to government of Cambodia to enter to Cambodia in order to search missing people. However, the government of Cambodia refused that  request as they claimed that during that time is about to have  upcoming election, so they did not allow foreign people to get in Cambodia…”, Mr. Somphong, one of Thai rescuers who had entered to the affected areas to search and help victims, told.

It is a really real sad– story and it’s no doubt as it about international politics. The time has passed, but the tragedy has become quiet. Of course, we will not directly hear real voices from affected people in Laos that how they are feeling now,  how suffered they are and what they really want as international communities will be no longer to enter into the site where the dam collapsed.

The Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding, Thai company, is also a share holder of this dam [Xepian Xe Nam Noy dam]. However, this Thai company refused to take responsibility and it said that the dam collapsed was the natural disaster, it was not the false of the process construction of  the dam.

The silence of people from Laos is a fearing, it is like ‘still water runs deep’. We do not really know or we could not predict how human rights violations are in Laos.

Nowadays, oversea investment is common and it is lawful in the region. But, oversea investment does not pay attention or aware of the direct or indirect transboudary negative impacts.

On October 2, 2018, I had the chance to visit villagers in Amphoe Bung Khla, Beung Kan province who are also indirect affected by dam collapsed and direct affected by strong water releasing from reservoir of Nam Ngeum dam during the month of July, 2018. As usual, every year, the level of water is flooded palm plantation, but this year is different because the level of water seems not going down as usual. This happened because there was heavy rain continuing, strong water releasing from reservoir of Nam Ngeum dam and the water from dam collapsed flew down to tributaries cause the speed of water flow slowly and the area has been flooded almost three months. Uncle Soutsakhone, the owner of palm plantation, told that the water flow was very muddy and bad smell, the palm plantation was then flooded and it was under the water for three months before the level of water going down. Uncle added his 10 Rai of palm plantation was 90% damaged and the fish in the pond died. Until now,  he has not yet received any compensation for the loss.  Uncle Soutsakkhone also said that he did not want to be risk at restoring his palm plantation because he was not sure if the dam collapsed will happen and cause the loss for his plantation again. He pointed that if it is seasonal raining, it only takes 2-3 days for water  to go down, but this incident was not natural disaster, it was a human-made disaster, but no one is responsible for it.

The palm plantation was 90% damaged. Photo by Mick

For such tragedy, we clearly see that  ‘disasters from oversea investment projects’ caused by human-made, but we lack of grievance mechanism to prevent human rights violations and remedies from those oversea investments. We can have oversea investments in another country, but it is necessary and need to have mechanisms to protect rights of people and to minimize the impacts such as Law on oversea investment, grievance mechanism from oversea investment and the Transboundary Impact Assessment, etc.

How long will we let these oversea investment projects continue violating human rights? Who will be responsible for the risk and the impacts from these projects? What are concrete mechanisms can be used to claim for compensation and remedies from oversea investments? Who will develop public-hearing mechanism? And how can people participate in developing of such mechanism?

Reference:

BBC Thai ”เขื่อนลาวแตก : รัฐมนตรีพลังงานลาว ชี้เขื่อนแตกเพราะก่อสร้างไม่ได้มาตรฐาน” https://www.bbc.com/thai/international-44936818 , modified 27 July 2018 

*Read original article for Thai language at FENR: https://bit.ly/2OIbt4K  

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