Thai Court Shoots Down 10-year-old Case Against Laos’s Xayaburi Dam

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Xayaburi Hydroelectric Power Project in Xayaboury Province, Laos
Xayaburi Hydroelectric Power Project in Xayaboury Province, Laos.

A senior court in Thailand has thrown out a lengthy case by activists against the Xayaburi Dam in Laos.

The Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand dismissed a decade-long case by activists, which claimed that the power purchase by Thailand’s Electricity Generating Authority (EGAT) from Laos’s Xayaburi Dam was causing significant harm to the environment and the livelihoods of people residing along the Mekong River. The plaintiffs also said in their lawsuit that proper procedures were not followed for the approval process and locals were not consulted to understand the repercussions of such a power deal. 

The case was earlier dismissed by a lower court in Thailand, and recently The Supreme Administrative Court also refuted the concerns raised by 37 villagers from eight provinces along the Mekong River. It stated that, “The signing of the power purchase agreement with the Xayaburi Dam had no clear and direct impact on the environment and people…the impact may be created by the Xayaburi Dam, but not by the power purchase agreement.” 

The 1,285-megawatt Xayaburi Dam is one of the first major hydropower dams in Laos constructed on the lower Mekong River and it has been operational since 2019, supplying 95% of its electricity to Thailand. Since Mekong is one of the world’s most diverse river basins, the locals allege that recent floods and droughts plaguing the nearby areas are caused by the series of dams built by Laos and China in the last few years. 

The Thai Mekong People’s Network, who had first filed a case in 2012, had been keen on proving that the Xayaburi Dam wouldn’t have existed if the Power Purchase Agreement with Thailand wasn’t already in place. For now, they have accepted the latest court verdict denying their claims, but want to keep up the fight by collecting more evidence and proof which could support a future lawsuit on this issue.