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6 Feb 2023


Laos: Relocation and compensation plans still up in air as China’s Sinohydro begins preparatory work at Pak Lay dam

"Villagers in the dark even as preparations start for building the Pak Lay Dam in Laos" 6 February 2023

Villagers in western Laos woke up in a panic last week to the sound of workers blasting rock to prepare for the building of a dam that would submerge their homes on the Mekong River. 

They were distressed because the government has not clarified its relocation plans for them, or offered specific compensation. 

“The authorities haven’t said anything about the relocation or the compensation, but I see [Chinese workers] are working in the water, blasting rock in the river,” one resident of the district, called Pak Lay in Xayaburi province, near the Thai border, said Thursday. [...]

Local communities as well as environmental and humanitarian groups have said the Pak Lay Dam is expected to force the relocation of some 1,000 families from 20 villages and harm the surrounding ecosystem.

Still the Lao government appears dead set on proceeding with the US$2 billion Chinese-led project, which it hopes will bring the impoverished country closer to its goal of becoming the battery of Southeast Asia.

Green light

The residents’ comments came on the same day that an official with the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines told Radio Free Asia that employees with China’s Sinohydro Corp. had begun building infrastructure for the Pak Lay Dam.

“The government has given the green light to the Chinese company to begin the construction of the basic infrastructure, including an access road and a bridge this year,” said the official, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media. [...]

Local residents decried the community’s lack of say in the decision-making process, and expressed concern about what kind of impact the dam will have on their lives. [...]

The Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines official told RFA last week that while the power purchase agreement for Pak Lay Dam has yet to be finalized by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, the Lao government wants Sinohydro Corp. “to be prepared for the construction of the dam as soon as the [agreement] is signed.” [...]