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Thai and Chinese clash over damming of the Mekong

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Thai and Chinese clash over damming of the Mekong | The Thaiger
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The Mekong River is shared my six countries and is the world’s twelfth longest river. But running through six going economies is causing a host of challenges and conflicts as to how to manage the river. Hydro-electric power is just one of the issues.

Chinese experts who insist that hydropower projects on the Mekong River will benefit all stakeholders met opposition yesterday when a Thai academic argued that locals lose more than they gain since dams impact heavily on every aspect of their lives.

Academics and experts from China told a seminar on “The Sustainable Development of Water Resources” at Chulalongkorn University that hydropower development on the Mekong mainstream is sustainable and would bring overall benefits to all residents of the river basin.

While accepting that dams had adverse impacts on the environment, river ecosystem, and the livelihoods of local people, the Chinese delegates said these could be mitigated by technology and good management.

China is among the biggest investors in Mekong hydropower, having so far constructed eight dams on the upper reaches of the river, and “currently work on” two massive hydropower projects downstream in Laos – the Pak Beng Dam and Pak Lai Dam.

Feng Yan, an academic from Yunnan University in China, claimed a survey on the impacts of the Nuozhadu Dam in Yunnan province showed that proper management and planning could ensure resettled residents enjoy a better quality of life.

Feng said the 2015 survey on 242 relocated families revealed they now had a higher average income and living standards despite having to change their way of life and livelihoods after moving to their new homes.

The Nuozhadu Dam is one of the largest on the upper Mekong, with a generating capacity of 5,850 megawatts.

More than 43,000 people had to be relocated after its completion in 2012, according to International Rivers, environmentalist group.

“People in the studied group have been resettled in modern high-rise residential buildings, which allow them to access electricity and tap water. They also have greater and easier access to education and healthcare compared to their old homes in rural farming villages,” Feng said.

She said this was a result of good management and planning by the project owner and authorities, which could be replicated elsewhere on the Mekong.

Thai and Chinese clash over damming of the Mekong | News by The Thaiger

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Economy

Government planning new strategies to boost economic recovery

Maya Taylor

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Government planning new strategies to boost economic recovery | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Pracha Hariraksapita / Shutterstock

Energy minister and deputy PM Supattanapong Punmeechaow has outlined a number of strategies the government hopes will help the Thai economy recover from the Covid-19 fallout. The Eastern Economic Corridor, the special economic zone covering the eastern provinces of Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao, continues to eye foreign investors with a number of large infrastructure projects in the pipeline. One of those is a high-speed rail link between U-Tapao, Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports. Also in the works is a 290 billion baht project to develop U-Tapao, with plans for a new, third terminal, and an aviation training centre, among other facilities.

Supattanapong adds that the Board of Investment is considering a range of incentives to encourage foreign investors to purchase property in Thailand. The government is considering offering permanent residency to those buying condos in the Kingdom, provided they don’t mortgage, transfer, or sell the units within 5 years of purchase.

In relation to foreign arrivals, he says the government will clarify its plans on any further re-opening to tourists and investors, in addition to any potential reduction in quarantine. He adds that if the current 14-day period is to be reduced, this would only apply to those coming from countries considered “low risk” for Covid-19. It’s understood the Public Health Ministry is working on categorising countries into low, medium, and high risk, in order to determine the new mandatory quarantine period for international arrivals.

Officials are also considering how foreigners can be encouraged to up their spending from the current average of 50,000 baht per person to 100,000 baht. Since the closure of Thailand’s borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s tourism sector, once welcoming around 40 million visitors a year and generating 3 trillion baht in revenue, has been decimated.

Meanwhile, the government continues to target domestic tourists and residents through a number of stimulus measures, including a recently announced co-payment scheme aimed at boosting spending.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Protests

Head of development think tank calls for dialogue to resolve political crisis

Maya Taylor

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Head of development think tank calls for dialogue to resolve political crisis | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

The president of the Thailand Development Research Institute is calling on both sides to resolve the ongoing political conflict through dialogue and democracy. In a report in the Bangkok Post, Somkiat Tangkitvanich warns that the situation is reaching a crisis point as he lays out his proposals for how both sides can reach an agreement.

Posting on Facebook, Somkiat points out that the country is currently divided politically based on their age, which he says is still preferable to being split by religious or racial differences. He adds that each side still needs to live alongside the other and that the only way out of the current impasse is through dialogue.

“For many Thais, the main question is what kind of political and governing system we should have and how the Monarchy should play a role. Many have expressed their own opinions, and it is obvious there are still huge differences. Whatever happens, we will still continue to co-exist in Thailand and we cannot expel or get rid of the side (just because) they hold different opinions.”

One of Somkiat’s suggestions is to use the House of Representatives and the parliamentary process to find a solution in the first instance. If this fails, the next step would be to hold a referendum and allow the people to decide. In the event of a referendum, each side should have equal opportunity to argue their case without intimidation, so that voters can make a fully informed decision.

He adds that, in addition to the formal process, a mediator acceptable to both sides could chair informal talks between them, but warns that these should not be held publicly, in order to avoid pressurising negotiators into a corner where they’re unable to change their stance.

Finally, he points out that, in order for both sides to work together and learn to trust each other, the government must release everyone currently being held on politically-related charges and listen to what they have to say.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Protests

Protesters mass at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok for the first of 2 scheduled rallies

The Thaiger

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Protesters mass at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok for the first of 2 scheduled rallies | The Thaiger

Crowds are gathering at the Ratchprsong intersection in Bangkok, one of the promised locations for a rally in response to last night’s refusal of the Thai PM to resign. Thousands have already gathered and, if the weather holds out, the numbers will continue to swell as the evening approaches.

Ratchprasong intersection is one of the busiest intersections in the city, right in the middle of the central Bangkok shopping district.

People have crowded the roads at the intersection, with hundreds of onlookers watching from the skywalk that is strung under the BTS tracks. The crowd is building along Ratchdamri Road, in front of Central World. Banners are being prepared on site with demands for the Thai prime minister’s resignation and other calls for action. Some of the banners are being taken from protest to protest, becoming a canvas for thousands of protesters to share their signatures and messages to the Government.

Messages on one of the banners read “We are the people”, “Everyone is a leader”, “Thailand is for the people”, “Police should protect the people”.

Musical performances are planned for this evening as the peaceful rally slowly grows in number. People’s Party and Free Youth merchandise is also being sold, along with the usual assortment of food stalls along the sides of Ratchadamri Road.

Many of the protesters have also mentioned the prospect of pro-royalist protesters turning up but have expressed their hope that the protests to continue peacefully. At this stage, there has been no sign of yellow shirted demonstrators at the site.

There are very few police patrolling the intersection as of 4.45pm, outnumbered at this stage by opportunist motorcycle taxi riders waiting for the conclusion of the rally. First aid, food, safety gear and merchandise are all on hand, much of the assistance from University volunteers.

There has also been a smattering of foreign protesters joining the Thais, also flashing signs of support, in English.

Tomorrow protesters have promised to march from the Sam Ron intersection to the German Embassy, a symbolic march to draw attention to the chosen overseas domicile of a “very important person”.

Many of the key protest leaders remain in jail, refused bail yesterday by the Appeals Court. They are still in residence at the Bangkok Remand Centre

The State of Emergency, forbidding the gathering of any more than 5 people, was dropped last Thursday morning after being in operation for a week.

Some protesters today say they would have been happy to keep defying the State of Emergency and fear that the removal of the emergency provisions could draw out more Royalist rallies with the potential for violent interaction between the two groups.

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