Monday, December 5, 2022

Shan Community Based Organizations Demand an End to Construction of Upper Salween Dam

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A coalition of Shan CBOs issue a joint statement calling for a halt to a controversial energy project in southern Shan State after flaws are exposed in an Australian company’s assessment strategies.

BANGKOK—A coalition of Shan Community Based Organizations (CBOs) demanded an end to the construction of the Upper Salween (Mong Ton) Dam in southern Shan State on Tuesday morning.

The announcement was made in Bangkok at a conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. According to Sai Khur Hseng, of the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization, CBO representatives were concerned both by the potential for displacement at the dam site and by questionable practices by Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC), the Australian company carrying out the Environmental and Social Impacts Assessments (EIA/SIA) for the project.

Pianporn Deetes, the Thailand campaign coordinator of International Rivers
Pianporn Deetes, the Thailand campaign coordinator of International Rivers
Sai Khur Hseng,  the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization
Sai Khur Hseng, the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization
The Press Conference on the Community Concerns about Salween Dams in Shan State held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand
The Press Conference on the Community Concerns about Salween Dams in Shan State held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand

Speakers at the conference described how SMEC has been lobbying the local citizens of Mong Ton Township for support.

“SMEC is telling community members only of the benefits that the dam will lead to in their area,” said Sai Khur Hseng. “However, they neglect to mention any negative impacts caused by the building of the dam.”

SMEC claimed to have spoken with villagers, but it was alleged that these individuals were not from communities directly affected by the dam. The statement described how some locals have reported being offered food and utilities from the company in exchange for their signed support of the project. The speakers warned that such actions could be divisive and foster unrest in the area.

The statement also highlights the strong possibility that, if the dam is completed, local villages will be affected by severe flooding which is expected to stretch two-thirds of the distance across Shan State. This would create further displacement in an area already affected by fighting between ethnic armed groups and the Burma Army.

The CBOs report that protests against the dam took place in Mong Ton and Kunhing Townships in April this year.

“The villagers do not fear standing against the company and its mission. These people believe that they have a right to protest, because they are protecting their heritage, land, and the valuable resources it holds,” said Pianporn Deetes, the Thailand campaign coordinator of International Rivers. “The villagers believe it is up to them to stand strong and protect it as best they can.”

The dam construction is a joint effort between three companies in three countries: China’s Three Gorges Corporation, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, and Myanmar’s Ministry of Electric Power and International Group of Entrepreneurs. It is estimated that the completed dam will produce 7000 megawatts of power, of which 90 percent will be sold to Thailand and China, leaving very little to benefit the surrounding communities.

Currently, the construction of the Upper Salween (Mong Ton) Dam remains underway with no plans to halt it.

Written by: SAI AW / SHAN HERALD AGENCY FOR NEWS (S.H.A.N.)

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