Thai activists demand pull-out from Myanmar dam project

Bangkok  - Thai civil society leaders representing 189 organizations demanded Monday the government withdraw from the controversial Hutgyi dam project in Myanmar or face dire consequences.

The group delivered a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva saying that international talk of engagement with Myanmar's military regime in no way negated the many objections to the Hutgyi dam and others along the Salween River that are designed to supply power to Thailand.

"We are extremely worried that local people will be devastated if dams like the Hutgyi go ahead because outsiders mistakenly think there has been a political breakthrough of some kind," said Pianporn Deetes, coordinator of the Living River Siam-Southeast Asia Rivers Network.

Plans have been in place for years to build seven large dams on the Salween to supply electricity mainly to Thailand and China. So far no progress has been made beyond minor preparatory work, but activists fear that Thailand's state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is determined to build at least some dams.

The letter said the proposed 1,360-megawatt Hutgyi dam, 47 kilometres from the Thai-Myanmar border, would lead to major human rights abuses against minority peoples opposed to the regime and flood a great area on both sides of the border. It said there would not be a transparent enquiry into the need for construction in a country where military rule remains controversial and contested.

Thailand's close economic ties with the regime are in stark contrast to those of most Western democracies, which have imposed economic sanctions on the country.

Such sanctions are deemed ineffective as long as Myanmar's main trading partners - Thailand, India and China - refuse to follow suit. (dpa)