On August 17, 2022, the Supreme Administrative Court dismissed the Xayaburi Dam case, the first lawsuit filed to protect the rights of Thai people from the transboundary impact of hydropower dams in the Mekong. The decision concluded that Thai government agencies are not directly involved in the environmental impacts of the dam.
In August 2012, 38 villagers from different communities along the Mekong River led by Niwat Roykaew, a human rights defender from Chiang Rai province and this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize awardee filed a lawsuit against five Thai government agencies in charge of energy and environment. They accused the authorities in charge of drawing Power Purchase Agreement with the dam that leads to severe impacts on environment and health on communities along the Mekong.
Xayaburi Dam is the first dam in a set of ten hydropower dams planned on the lower Mekong river. Located in Xayaburi Province, Laos, the dam lies 200 kilometres north from Chiang Khan District, Loei Province, Thailand. Officially began its commercial electricity production in 2019, Xayaburi’s main client is Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) under the 31 years contract.
Villagers along the Mekong River in northeastern Thailand have been facing water fluctuation over the past years after the dam began its production.
The court agreed and stood by with the results of the Administrative Court of First Instance to dismiss the lawsuit. The decision denied the direct involvement and responsibilities of Thailand’s Power Purchase Agreement with the environmental impacts.
“The court views that the power purchase agreement and the dam are two separate things. We really need to look at the accountability throughout the supply chain.” explained Sor. Ratmanee Polkla, a lawyer at the Community Resources Centre.
“We have been fighting for 12 years and I feel very tired,” said Sorn Champadok, a women fisherfolk in Ubon Ratchathani province. She found that many local species are disappearing at a great speed. She and her husband also joined a citizen science program in measuring Mekong turbidity to study the impact of the Xayaburi dam. “We have to continue to study the impact of the dam. But I would like to hear that the state will help mitigate the impact.”
Xayaburi Dam is only the first dam from many planned to be built and sell electricity to Thailand.
Photo and report by Nicha Wachpanich