(Translation from Thai)
An Open Letter to the Chairperson of the Chulalongkorn University Council
Inquiry on the roles of academics from Chula Research, Chulalongkorn University urged regarding the study of the Salween Dam in Myanmar
18 December 2015
Dear Chairperson of the Chulalongkorn University Council,
The Community Network for Resource Management in the Salween River Basin has received an invitation from the Chula Research, Chulalongkorn University to participate in the meeting “The Post Orientation of the Additional Study on the Hat Gyi Hydropower Project along the Thailand-Myanmar Border” to be held today (18 December 2015) at the meeting hall of Thongsawat Wittyakan School, Mae Sariang District, Mea Hong Son from 8.30-12.30. It mentions that the meeting was held to promote participation and public relations of the project.
Having been monitoring the project, the Network has the following to say;
1. The environmental impact assessment has failed to meet the standard and is unacceptable. The Hat Gyi Dam with installed capacity of 1,360 megawatts to be built in the Salween River, Karen State, Myanmar, is located just 47 kilometers from Ban Sob Moei, Sob Moei District, Mea Hong Son. In spite of its potential massive impacts on the ecology of the Salween, an international river, no sufficient study has yet been made to assess its transboundary impacts. In the past several years, the Chula Research, Chulalongkorn University, has been commissioned by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to conduct an additional study, but no field trips have ever been made owing to the continuing warring situation in the areas controlled by the Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, particularly in Karen State at the project site. In Thailand, the study has been conducted in only three villages by the river even though the Salween and the whole stretch of Salween forest are home to rich natural resources covering a large area and tributaries connecting and flowing into various other rivers including the Moei, the Ngao, the Yuam, and the Pai Rivers in Tak and Mea Hong Son. The area is also an internationally recognized wetland.
2. The impacts on the people, displaced persons at the project site of the Hat Gyi Dam and surrounding area: In the past several decades, due to ongoing armed conflicts in Myanmar, tens of thousands of ethnic populations have been displaced and fled for their survival to the temporary shelters built along the border in Sob Moei District, Mea Hong Son and Tha Song Yang and Mae Ramad Districts, Tak. Most of them continue to live there until now. The attempt to push ahead the dam project will certainly exacerbate the predicament of the people living along the border as evidence has been shown in the study of its impacts on human rights by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The investment in any large scale project has to be made with consideration of its social impacts.
Based on the two main reasons, we cannot accept the result of the study conducted by the Chula Research, Chulalongkorn University and urge that the Chulalongkorn University Council which has the oversight of the Chula Research, to review the institution’s roles in providing academic services and to order a halt to all of the existing studies until peace has been completely restored in Myanmar. The studies should be put on hold until local people are able to return to their homeland and are able to participate and freely voice their opinions regarding the project which might render the impacts on the environment and their community. Until then, it would be possible to review alternative energy generation options to provide the need of local people in a more comprehensive, inclusive and transparent manner. The rush to complete the study project as commissioned as it has been ongoing is not the way to go.
The Community Network for Resource Management in the Salween River Basin
Mea Hong Son