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Egat's access to dam power in doubt

Court agrees to rule on Xayaburi case

THE SUPREME Administrative Court has agreed to rule on a case involving the Xayaburi Dam, which is now being constructed in Laos.

The case will have no direct impact on whether the construction can go ahead but will affect the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand's (Egat) contract to buy electricity from the Bt120-billion dam.

If the contract is cancelled, there is a possibility the ongoing construction may come to a halt. The Egat, after all, is a major buyer of electricity from this dam project.

Supported by non-governmental organisations, including International Rivers, 37 Thais from eight northeastern provinces have lodged a petition with the Administrative Court against the Egat and several state agencies on the grounds that Thai authorities failed to fully comply with laws in signing up to buy electricity .

Located on the Mekong River, the Xayaburi Dam has caused serious concern among people living downstream.

All Thais who brought the case before the administrative court live in the downstream zones.

Their petition has also targeted the National Energy Policy Council, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Energy Ministry and the Cabinet.

The Central Administrative Court earlier decided not to rule on their petition, citing the complainants would by no means be affected by the electricity purchase.

The Supreme Administrative Court, however, has overruled the lower court's decision.

"We will rule on this case because available evidence suggests relevant authorities have failed to adequately listen to the opinions of people and to comply with the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement," court judge Suchat Mongkollertlop said yesterday.

He pointed out that public hearings were held in three provinces only, while many more provinces on the Mekong River were likely to be affected.

He also pointed to the need to provide adequate information to stakeholders and to assess impacts on the environment, public health and society.

Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer who has assisted local people with the case, said she was satisfied with the latest court decision.

She said local people's concerns would also be raised at the upcoming meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), to be held in Thailand later this week.




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