Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM)

On the 28th August, five days after the Se Pien-Xe Nam Noy Dam in Lao PDR was collapsed. The Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM) was established. This people/citizen Network is the network of the people in Asia and internationally, who are interested in the direction of Lao PDR to be the "Battery of Asia". The network is, in particular, concerning about the investment of the large business in the large-scale hydropower dams in Laos, which have already resulted in the impacts to the people in Laos and neighboring countries in relating to the fishery, changing of the river ecosystem and lastly, the problem of the dam break. 

Project SEVANA's coordinator is now the coordinator of LDIM in Thailand. She works closely with the LDIM alliance task force that set up in Korea, the Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy Dam Collapse, Korea.

Most of the news and update for LDIM can be found at <>


The declaration of the 9th August 2018


Today, Thursday the 9th of August, the gathering of people and the civil society groups occurs at the same time in Bangkok, Thailand and in Seoul, South Korea. Two networks are organizing the two forums, first, the Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM) and the Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy Dam Collapse.


In accordance to the contents of our discussion, and the analysis from knowledgeable participants in the two forums, LDIM and the Korean Civil Society Taskforce wish to state and publicize our standpoints and proposal in relating to the Xe Pien- Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam in Lao PDR as below;  


Firstly – STOP - Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam has no legitimacy to continue – First of all, we are acknowledge that, as the result of the Xe Pien Xe Nam Noy Dam collapse on the 23rd of July, the Laos cabinet have announced on the 7th of August to carry out inspections to all existing dams in the country and decided to suspend the consideration of new investments in hydropower projects in order to review its hydropower development strategy and plans. Without knowing the next step planning take by the government of Lao PDR, we declare our understanding that Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy project, has lost its total legitimacy to continue its original function as a hydropower dam. The dam that was planned to only sell electricity to Thailand to add up on top of the high percentage of energy surplus that Thailand already has, has killed at least 35 people, and is causing long-term suffering of another tens of thousands of people in both Lao PDR and Cambodia. The natural resources and the environment from the disaster are beyond description.  The Laos government and the consortium of the companies needs to put their primary emphasis on the operation to rescue and bring back the most possible security to peoples’ lives and future, and also the recovery of environment that is being destroyed. The severe impacts from the collapse that has been witnessed by the world needs to be admitted and learn from by the investment actors involve. After all, the investors, Laos government, the Korean government and the Thai energy authority need to accept the fact that Xe-Pien-Xe Nam Noy is now only carrying the role of an important symbol of the people, country and the global tragedy.


Secondly – DECLARATION - The most transparency and urgently declaration by the investors and authorities involved need to be in place now – The impact of Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy collapse have gone beyond the border of the country. The expectation of the Thai, Korean, and global communities can only be met by seeing the formal and proper apologies by the SK Engineering & Construction (SK E&C), Korea Western Power (KOWEPO), the Thai power company Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding (RATCH) and Lao Holding State Enterprise (LHSE), in a close cooperation with the Laos government and the electricity of Thailand to the people of Lao PDR and Cambodia. The apologies have to be the first step to-wards a clear declaration on the responsibility of each investment beneficiary of the project towards lives and livelihood of the people and resources belonging to Xe Pien Xe Nam Noy, rivers and the surrounding environment.


The process of inspection by the Laos and Korean government on the overseas investment of public corporation or private sector such as the two Korean company and Thai’s Ratch is necessary. The process of the public money being used as the Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Korea also necessary to be declared and investigate by public. The responsibility by law and other legitimate frameworks and measurements needs to be declared to the public, to allow the most systematic monitoring and role-taking of any people, communities, and groups that are willing to engage to the mission that can ensure the better situation and recovery  of the affected peoples’ future, both in Lao PDR and Cambodia.


Lastly, COMPENSATION - The most urgent thing is the operation to rescue and compensate to the people affected by Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy dam collapse on the ground. - What is presently occurring in the eyes of the public, is the denying of responsibility among the companies and authorities responsible. Instead of pushing it away, the world community is waiting to see the direct involvement of the top persons of all companies on the ground, to meet and support to the people that are still buried in the mud in Lao PDR. All the companies need to formally acknowledge that in some area, people are still in the stage of waiting to be rescued, and doing so with hunger and suffering. The work directly in Lao PDR is, therefore, the companies’ most urgent task. In the middle and long term, the problem such as the flooded the unexploded ordnance coming down from the mountain to the lower affected areas and the livelihood recovery of peoples, especially with children and the younger generation, has been estimated that to take years or possibly almost a decade from now.


Finally, but importantly, we state the necessity of the companies and the governments for NOT putting the compensation cost back to the electricity bill and the public fund that is paid by the Thai, Korean and the Laos citizenry. The companies and the consortium of beneficiaries needs to bear the cost solely for the compensation for the disaster that just occurred.


With the three issues stated in this declaration, we, the Laos Dam Investment Monitor and the Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy Dam Collapse, state the most important need for the participation of Laos, neighbouring countries, and the people from outside of the country to be welcomed by the Laos government. With this, we declare our commitment to continue our monitoring and work that is needed in relating to the project’s cessation – declaration and the compensation with the close involvement of the Laos government, the Korean government and the Thai government with its energy authority, in order to ensure the dignity and security of people in Lao PDR and Cambodia, the sustainability of natural resources and the environment that means everything to us. 




 Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM)


The Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies

for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy Dam Collapse

SPECIAL REPORT: Don’t make dam business solely about profits, say advocates

big read August 18, 2018 01:00


Last month’s dam collapse at the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project in Laos’ Attapeu province has so far claimed 35 lives, with 99 missing and thousands displaced.

This tragedy has prompted the Lao government to set up panels to find the cause of the incident and exactly who should be held responsible. It has also ordered safety checks on every dam in the country. But most importantly, it has decided to suspend the building of new dams and is reviewing its ambitious plan to become the “Battery of Southeast Asia”. 

If it weren’t for this tragedy, certain facts would not have been revealed – the complex transboundary investment that has eluded local regulations and compromised accountability and transparency. 

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, a director of the Mekong Energy and Ecology Network, said this incident reminded him of a similar project in Laos – the 1,070MW Nam Theun 2 Dam.

He was sharing his insights at a recent forum organised simultaneously in Bangkok and in South Korea by the Laos Dam Investment Monitor and the Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Dam Collapse.

Under Laos' ambition, a feasibility study for Nam Theun 2 was conducted in the mid ’70s, before the country materalised it in the late 1980s as it was expected to be a prime vehicle to drive Laos’ development at the time.

Global financial institutions including the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank were invited to take part, and the project then saw new trans-national investors, including the Italian-Thai Development Company from Thailand. This created a new investment pattern in the dam-construction business in Laos – public-private partnerships.

Witoon explained that getting global financial institutes to participate in the project boosted confidence in the investment, making it more attractive for private investors. 

This pattern, he said, continues these days, and can also be observed in the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy project.

Under project, Laos had given concession to two South Korean companies, who later sought investors for the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Power Co Ltd joint venture. 

South Korean firms SK Engineering & Construction and Korea Western Power Company held stakes of 26 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. Ratchaburi Electricity Holding, a subsidiary of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), was invited to buy 25 per cent and the Laos Holding State Enterprise urged to buy the remaining 24 per cent. 

It was later learned that South Korea had granted a development assistance fund to the Lao Holding State Enterprise to help it join the consortium.

Once the joint venture was set up, buyers were sought. So, Thailand’s Egat signed a power purchase agreement, even though its subsidiary – Ratchaburi Electricity Holding – played a role as developer.

After Egat signed the purchase pact, the project sought new loans from four Thai banks – which provided another 70 per cent of the project’s capital, approximately US$1.02 billion (Bt33.92 billion).

Witoon said complex business structures like these raise questions about accountability and transparency.

Firstly, it was unclear how the four companies in the joint venture could be held responsible for the damage the dam collapse caused. 

Also, the business cannot assure the public, especially power consumers here in Thailand, that it has no conflict of interest – especially in light of the conflicting roles played by Egat and its subsidiary. 

Lastly, the projected demand for electricity in Thailand is far beyond reality, which has prompted questions about the need for Egat and its subsidiary to invest in the project. For instance, consumption of 40,000MW was projected, while the actual use stood at around 29,000MW. 

“The business structure has to be reviewed, as it seems to be helping some parties make money. If we look at it from the investment point of view, we see investors, banks, the stock market as true drivers in this business – not the consumers. 

“The point is as long as such a business structure is allowed – we will see maximum profits being set as the key goal, not public interest, environmental impact or people’s plight,” Witoon said.

He said that a look into another 11 hydropower projects in Laos revealed they were similar – they were joint ventures with Thai companies, and nearly all of them had an Egat subsidiary involved in one way or another. 

Laos, meanwhile, aims to build at least 100 dams by 2021.


A new path

As per the Laos National Socio-Economic Development Strategy 2016-2025 and its 8th five-year Socio-Economic Development Plan, Laos will focus on bringing its economic growth up to 7.5 per cent. It also aims to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goal to cut poverty to below 5 pr cent, while promoting environmental protection and sustainable development.

Currently, up to 28 per cent of the Lao population lives under the poverty line. 

According to a recent report from the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines, hydropower development had two primary purposes. Firstly, it is to promote economic and social advancement by providing reliable, clean and affordable domestic power supply. Secondly, it is to attract foreign investment and earn foreign exchange by exporting electricity.

So far, Laos has signed agreements with neighbouring countries. By 2025, it will supply 9,000MW to Thailand and 1,500MW to Cambodia, and 5,000MW to Vietnam by 2030. Electricity is expected to cover approximately 30 per cent of the country’s export market. 

To pursue its ambition, the country has set up a policy in relation to hydropower development. Under this policy, all large hydropower projects must produce an Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan. It also requires that the rights of all affected people be recognised and met through a Resettlement and Social Development Plan.

The policy also requires that a strategy be developed to stabilise land usage and manage protected areas. The profits are supposed to be shared with the Environment Protection Fund, and financial and technical sustainability must be ensured.

Advocates of sustainable development, however, have wondered if these regulations will ever be met with so many dams being built in Laos. 

Apart from local regulations, hydropower development in the Mekong is also governed by the inter-governmental body – the Mekong River Commission (MRC). However, the MRC does not have a say if the dam is built on a tributary, such as the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy project.

The MRC said it had been notified of this project in September 2013 in accordance with the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA).

Notified projects on Mekong tributaries are not required to undergo MRC’s prior consultation process, including assessments. Projects on tributaries follow national laws and regulations, it noted.

Witoon said the recently released Council Study commissioned by the MRC suggested that hydropower development in the region, if allowed to continue until 2040, would affect the farming sector – cutting production by more than 2.4 tonnes per hectare in the fertile Mekong Delta.

Dams would block sediments and nutrients that feed the soil, native fish species would go extinct and the health of the ecosystem get degraded. 

“The report suggested that Mekong countries should look for alternative development, and we should actually start reviewing this whole business,” Witoon said.

Meanwhile, Pianporn Deetes, Thailand and Myanmar campaigns director for International Rivers, said there were several points concerning the governance of the dam business in the region.

While the projects generally cannot prove that they will have no impact on the environment or communities, local regulations are often too weak to keep the projects in check, whereas regional governance is not yet in place to guide proper practises. 

Businesses that are solely profit driven need to be reviewed, she said, and the Xe Pian incident has provided a good opportunity for concerned parties to review their business as it is clear they did not focus on the real capital – the people and the environment. 

“Business should not be all about making money, it’s about responsibility and accountability,” Pianporn said.