LDIM_The first forum


Public Forum on “The mysteries of the hydropower plant business in Laos:    Foreign companies, official development aid, energy plans and the collapse of Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam”


Date and time:           Thursday 9th August, 9.30 am – 4 pm

Place:                          Student Christian Center, Bangkok, Thailand

 

Background of the project


On the 23rd July, the Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy saddle dam “D” collapsed with the immediate effect of approximately 175 billion cubic feet of water being released in a flash flood,       cascading down from a height of 630m above sea level into the lower stretches of the valley formed by the Xe Pien River in southern Laos. The massive collapse left the people in its way with less than 4 hours to prepare and move out from the immediate danger zone. Many affected villagers did not even get the news about the looming danger of this huge dam collapsing.  As a consequence, at least 6,000 people have been immediately affected by the flash floods triggered by the dam break. Among them, more than 30 people already confirmed dead. Washed away by the violent flood waters, dead bodies were also found in the lower stretches of the affected river system across the border in Cambodia’s Stung Treng Province.


The catastrophe triggered regional and worldwide expressions of sympathy and support for the affected people of Attapeu and Champasak provinces in Southern Laos. However, while the flow of donations and the of arrival rescue teams has been ongoing, very few people understand the root causes of that disaster, in particular, the role the underlying investment processes have played in increasing the risks. This particular hydropower project has been developed and managed by the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Company (PNPC), a joint venture formed in 2012 by SK Engineering and Construction (Korea), Korea Western Power, Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding in Thailand and the Lao Holding State Enterprise. Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding is a private company subsidiary of the Energy Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). The investments provided by the Lao government as one of the project’s shareholders came through direct support from South Korea. To this end, the South Korean government provided the Laotian government with a concessional loan of US$ 80.8 million channeled via a specific Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) run by the Korea Export-Import Bank. The hydropower plant was scheduled to begin operations in 2019.  


Under the signed agreements, 90% of electricity produced would have been exported to Thailand, with EGAT being the official buyer. In addition, several major Thai banks provided funding for the project: Krung Thai Bank, Tanachart, the Export-Import Bank of Thailand, and the Bank of Ayudhaya (Krung Sri).

 

As the above information shows, a diverse group of developers and investors have been involved in the project from the outset, playing different roles in the process of the planning and construction of the Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy hydropower plant. Before pending issues of compensation and disaster recovery assistance might be answered conclusively, the regional and international community and in particular the people in Laos should be able to understand the patterns of responsibility among the diverse group of investors, authorities, and developers involved in the project.

 

This Public Forum organized in Bangkok, Thailand was planned with the aims to bring together local groups with substantive and thorough knowledge about the history and relevant technical and financial aspects of this particular hydropower project, also to help clarify and make available to the public some of the unknown and hidden facts behind the vast proliferation of hydropower plants in Laos. This includes information and analysis as to how Korean official development aid (ODA) has played a role in causing this disaster, affecting Lao communities in the South of the country. The Public Forum also discuss the response of the Korean people to this tragedy. An analysis of Thailand’s energy plan planned to be provided, and the future of Thai-Laos cooperation in the energy sector was also on the agenda, along with the positions and opinions of local people who live close to Laos and relate to the situation of the Lao people. Finally, issues of corporate accountability and the applicable human rights framework for business was also in the discussion agenda.

 

The one-day Public Forum was also planned to be entitled “Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM) ”, to highlight the aim to establish a people/citizen and activist network that pays particular attention to the situation in Laos in terms to the problematic proliferation of large-scale hydropower dam projects. The Forum was consist of two main panels, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, respectively. Korean citizens and civil society groups gathered together as a task force under the name the “Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy Dam Collapse” (The Korean Task force) was also organize the parallel press conference in Korea at the same time of the Bangkok’s Public’s Forum. The two group also released the Joint Declaration that was reading and circulating in both forums in English, Thai and Korean language.


Program


09.30-09.45 am  

Short video : “Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM)”

Opening speech: “How Mekong people feels about the collapse of Xe Pien -Xe Nam Noy Dam?” by Mrs.Sompong Viengchan, leader of Pak Mun Dam Movement, Ubon Ratchathani Province


09.45-10.45                         

Roundtable Discussion:  

Highlight issues related to the Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy Dam situation, key actors and their roles (10 minutes each)

 

How significant of Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy area to the Mekong plains, from Laos to Cambodia? What do we know so far about the dam collapse situation?

By Premrudee Daoroung, Coordinator of Project SEVANA South-East Asia and Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM)

 

Voice from Cambodia

By Meach Mean, Villager from Cambodia’s Sesan, Sekong and Srepok area

 

Our knowledge about  Laos dams and dam builders, and what we wanted to see

Niwat Roykaew, Leader of Rak Chiang Khong Group, Chiang Rai Province

 

How Korea and the ODA ‘make dam happened’ in Laos

By Soyeun Kim, Associate Professor from Sogang Institute for East Asian Studies, Sogang University, South Korea

 

Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy Dam: Benefits of Ratchburi holding and EGAT, but what about Thai people? 

By Witooon Permponsacharoen, Director, Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEE Net)

 

After the Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy tragedy, what is the future of Laos ambitious policy to be the “Battery of Asia”?

Supalak Kanchanakundee, Editor, The Nation

 

10.45-11.00                         Coffee break

11.00-11.15                         

Video present an announcement of Laos Dam Investment Monitor (LDIM) and the Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy Dam Collapse, Korea

 

11.15-12.00                         

Q/A and Discussion among participate experts and audiences

Moderator: Kamol Sukin, Southeast Asia Regional Editor, China Dialogue 

and Premrudee Daoroung, LDIM

 

12.00-13.30                         Lunch break

 

13.30- 15.00                        

 

Presentation of Xe Pien-Xe Nam Noy news clips and detail discussion

 

Soyeun Kim   - Tragedy of Xe Nam Noy –Xe Pien dam: Korea’s business interest in Mekong?

Witoon Permpongsacharoen – Thai energy plan: Impacts to Laos and other neighbors

Niwat Roikaew – Experience from dialogue with ‘the Chinese’ on the dam in Laos

Sompong Viengchan and Meach Mean  - Future of the people after the dam, from our direct experiences

 

15.00-16.30                        Coffee break

                                          Q/A and Discussion

 

16.30                                     Closing 

 



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)

And;

The Coordinated Response Team of the Korean Civil Societies

for the Xe Pian-Xe Nam Noy Dam Collapse