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Xayaburi Dam protesters in Phuket maintain threat of closing Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Xayaburi Dam protesters in Phuket maintain threat of closing Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Residents of eight Thai provinces along the Mekong River traveled to Phuket to protest construction of the Xayaburi Dam in Laos during a three-day meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) that ends today in Phuket.

The protesters gathered on Tuesday morning at the Movenpick Resort, which is hosting the “Mekong 2 Rio” conference of high-level delegates from Mekong Basin states and their upstream partners.

Members of the Network of Thai People in 8 Mekong Provinces were there to greet them with a peaceful protest, but threatened to close the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge to traffic if their demands to halt construction of the Xayaburi Dam upstream in Laos go unheeded.

Among the uninvited guests were members of the Network of Thai People in 8 Mekong Provinces led by Niwat Roykaew.

The network comprises people from the Thai provinces of Chiang Rai, Loei, Nongkhai, Bueng Khan, Nakhon Phanom, Amnat Charoen, Mukdahan, and Ubon Ratchathani.

The network came to the conference in order to ask the MRC to reconsider construction of the Xaiyaburi Dam and a number of other dam projects along the Mekong.

“The Xaiyaburi Dam in Laos will cause a huge damage to ecosystems, as well as the lifestyles of people who live along the river in all four countries. We are here today to give this letter of complaint to the MRC Council members of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam,” said Mr Niwat.

The complaint made two specific charges: that construction of the Xayaburi Dam violated a 1995 agreement among all four member countries that “any action that will cause any impact or damage to the Mekong river will have to be agreed by all members of the four countries first.”

The second grievance was that the Laos government violated an MRC resolution made in December last year when it awarded Thai construction firm CH Karnchang Public Company Ltd a 51-billion-baht contract to build the 32-meter-high dam, with electricity generation capacity of more than 1,200 megawatts.

The Laos government failed to complete a study informing other member states of project impacts before awarding the contract, Mr Niwat said.

The network called for CH Karnchang PCL to cease work on the project and asked four Thai banks to stop servicing loans to the company.

The mega-project is jointly funded by Siam Commercial Bank, Bangkok Bank, Krungthai Bank, and Kasikorn Bank.

The protesters also called on the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to cancel a “secret contract” made with the Laos government to buy the electricity from the project after it goes into operation.

Niwat Roykaew said that if no action is taken, he will lead the network to protest “until the issue is resolved”.

“The Xaiyaburi Dam construction has already begun. If the MRC still ignores the issue, we have no choice but to gather up at the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Nongkhai province. We will go there and close down the bridge until someone comes up with a solution,” said Mr Niwat.

A spokesman for the MRC told the protesters that members of all four member states had acknowledged the opposition to the project, which would be a topic of discussion during the proceedings.

The MRC would inform everyone of the results of its talks, he promised.

In his opening comments before delegates, Thai Natural Resource and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk said the main objective of the conference was to discuss management of food, water, and energy needs among all stakeholders, maximizing resource use while minimizing environmental impacts.

Among the 350 delegates attending were representatives of 14 foreign river basin organizations, two regional organizations, as well as government and private groups responsible for water management from around the world.

Mr Preecha said Thailand would use the many panel discussions to share with their counterparts from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam what they learned from the devastating floods of 2011.

Hans Guttman, Chief Executive Officer of the MRC, said, “Rapid development in the Mekong region has put increasing pressure on water resources, especially in terms of food and energy production.

“This conference will enable the region to learn from other basins, widening its perspectives and expertise in order to efficiently manage the Mekong resources. We hope this forum will offer the same opportunities for the others,” said Mr Guttman.

The MRC website states that the Mekong 2 Rio conference will principally look into current trends of water uses to meet food, energy and water needs and how they are connected to and affect each other.

“The Mekong 2 Rio conference will send a message and add a water dimension to Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held next month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, whose themes are a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework needed,” the MRC states.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong



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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Chiang Mai

Mae Sa and Tad Mork waterfalls in Chiang Mai closed

The Thaiger

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Mae Sa and Tad Mork waterfalls in Chiang Mai closed | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Mae Sa waterfall

Doi Suthep-Pui National Park officials in the north of Thailand have closed the Mae Sa and Tad Mork waterfalls after heavy rainfall have caused high water flows and slippery paths “that may endanger tourists”.

Mae Sa waterfall is approximately 30 minutes drive north-west from Chiang Mai and Tad Mork waterfall about an hour drive north-west of Chaing Mai.

The national park chief Wuttichai Soamwipark told Thai Rath that his office will continue to monitor the situation and urged tourists to remain safe, and follow the directions of park signage and officials.

The two waterfalls are very popular with local and foreign hikers who visit the park every year.

Mae Sa and Tad Mork waterfalls in Chiang Mai closed | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tad Mork waterfall

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Chiang Mai

Thai farmers reluctant to scale down use of ‘toxic’ herbicides

The Thaiger

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Thai farmers reluctant to scale down use of ‘toxic’ herbicides | The Thaiger

Thai farmers say they oppose the proposed bans on herbicides paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos.

The Thai government plans to phase out three chemical weed killers, widely used by Thai farmers, by the end of this year.

Farmers say they oppose the restrictions of use because the chemicals provide higher crop yields, according to Thai PBS who headed out into the fields to survey farmers’ attitudes to the proposed restrictions.

A recent field survey of farmers in Phrae, northern Thailand, indicated that many of the local farmers were unlikely to forsake the weed killers while an effective alternative is not currently available.

Thai PBS reports that the Phrae provincial governor Pongrat Piromrat says that the local government had been encouraging farmers to turn to organic farming. But he admitted the results had been limited because the organic produce is less popular among wholesalers and consumers and because the produce does not look as attractive or fetch the same prices as its non-organic counterparts.

The farmers say, because of their large farms and shortage of labour, they need to use the three herbicides and weed killers before and after cultivation to get large enough harvests to generate the incomes they need.

Organic farmer Mr. Ronnakiat Kamnoi, village headman of Tambon Mae Poong in Wang Chin district, said the government should use incentives to persuade farmers to stop using the toxic chemicals, and launch educational campaigns so farmers better understand the health and environmental risks from the chemicals and the merits of organic farming.

Starting in October this year, farmers who want to continue using the three chemicals must register with officials in their respective areas and undergo training on their proper use.

Retail sellers of the three chemicals are also required to register with authorities to obtain sale permits.

Thai farmers reluctant to scale down use of 'toxic' herbicides | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Thai PBS

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Chiang Mai

Lanterns grounded in Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong world record attempt

The Thaiger

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Lanterns grounded in Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong world record attempt | The Thaiger

Enthusiastic enforcement of the TM30 form is one thing. Backing down on modern new public buses in Bangkok is another. But now the Thai government have gone too far!

Officials in Chiang Mai have ordered the cancellation of a major sky lantern event, including a Guinness world record attempt, planned for the Loy Krathong festival in November, caving in to local conservation groups.

The event, which was jointly organised by the Chiang Mai Tourism Industry Council and the Office Huay Toeng Thao reservoir tourism promotion project, was to be held at Huay Toeng Thao in Mae Rim district of Chiang Mai.

More than 20,000 Chinese tourists are expected to join the event and the organisers had hoped to set Guinness world record for the largest number of sky lanterns to be floated in the air at a single event.

The event, however, was slammed by conservation groups, claiming that the release of sky lanterns is not a traditional Lanna custom and they can disrupt air travel, cause fires and result in garbage.

It is reported that Maj-Gen Suebsakul Buarawong, commander of the 33rd Army Circle, has ordered the cancellation of the event and, instead, has ordered the development of army-controlled areas to be tourist attractions as well as recreational spots.

The Thaiger wonders why the 33rd Army Circle is making civic decisions following the return to civilian rule, assuming the flying lanterns were not a military hazard.

A coordinator for the Rak Chiang Mai community network has praised the army’s decision to cancel the aerial display and world record attempt.

Watch how the yearly mass display of lanterns in Chiang Mai inspired a favourite Disney scene from ‘Tangled’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTCbBi7unkg

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