Xayaburi dam lawsuit (re Laos & Thailand)

xayaburi-dam-protest-credit-International-RiversIn August 2012, a group of 30 villagers filed a lawsuit in Thailand’s Administrative Court against Thai government agencies, including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the National Energy Policy Council, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.  The lawsuit concerns the Xayaburi dam under construction on the Mekong River in Northern Laos, and the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the Thai government agencies and the Xayaburi Power Company Limited.  

The Mekong River has the world’s largest inland fishery industry.  The plaintiffs argue that the dam will cause significant damage to the river’s ecosystem and displace the millions of people living along the river who depend on it for their livelihood and food security.

Under the PPA, EGAT agreed to purchase 95% of the electricity generated by the dam.  Without this agreement, the dam would not be economically viable.  The plaintiffs argue that the PPA is illegal under Thai and international law, because the PPA was concluded without the notification, consultation, and environmental and health impact assessments required under the Thai constitution, various laws and cabinet orders.  The lawsuit also argues that the Thai government agencies were in breach of international legal obligations of best practice when they signed the PPA. 

In February 2013, the Administrative Court of Thailand denied jurisdiction to hear the case because the plaintiffs could not be considered injured persons, and the court did not deem the conclusion of the PPA to be an administrative act.  The plaintiffs filed an appeal in March 2013.  In June 2014, the Thai Supreme Administrative Court accepted the case stating that “evidence suggests relevant authorities have failed to adequately listen to the opinions of people and to comply with the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement…" In October 2014, the communities filed the injunction with the Administrative Court requesting a halt on the construction of the dam while the Supreme Administrative Court rules on the legality of the PPA.  In December 2015, the Supreme Administrative Court dismissed the case on the basis that “the defendants did not neglect their duty” and that the PPA fulfilled the required notification and consultation procedures.  The villagers appealed the decision on 26 January 2016.


- “Summary of the Supreme Administrative Court Decision”, 25 Dec 2015
- “Mekong communities seek injunction on Xayaburi Dam deal”, Nation (Thailand), 16 Oct 2014
- “Thai Mekong Communities Take Further Legal Steps to Stop Xayaburi Dam”, Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers, 17 Oct 2014
- “Dam Projects Ignite a Legal Battle Over Mekong River’s Future”, Michelle Nijuis, National Geographic, 12 Jul 2014
- "Thai court takes villagers' case against power firm, Laos dam", Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters, 24 Jun 2014

International Rivers:
- “Mekong Villagers To Appeal Xayaburi Court Case Decision”, Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers, 25 Dec 2015
- “Thai Mekong Communities Take Further Legal Steps to Stop Xayaburi Dam”, Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers, 17 Oct 2014
- “Thai Court Holds Hope for Transboundary Justice in the Mekong”, Pianporn Deetes, 23 Jul 2015
- Xayaburi Dam page


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26 January 2016

Thai Communities Appeal Xayaburi Lawsuit Verdict

Author: International Rivers

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Xayaburi Dam’s Power Purchase Agreement, filed an appeal today with Thailand’s Supreme Administrative Court to reverse the ruling by the Administrative Court, who dismissed the case on December 25, 2015. The appeal asks that the Supreme Court order the lower court to re-examine the case, in recognition of the severe transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi Dam on communities in Thailand...“There is an urgent need to address the extraterritorial obligation of state agencies and the private sector within hydropower development on the Mekong River. We hope that the Supreme Administrative Court will grant Thai communities another chance at justice for themselves and the Mekong River.” [said International Rivers' Programme Director]

Read the full post here

7 January 2016

Thailand: Unofficial translation of summary of decision on Xayaburi dam released

Author: Thai Supreme Administrative Court

“Summary of the Supreme Administrative Court Decision”, 25 Dec 2015

…In this case, the plaintiff wishes to bring the case against the defendant for 3 grounds which are: 1) the PPA between the EGAT and the Xayaburi Power Co., Ltd. is invalid; 2) the Procedure for Notification Prior Consultation and Agreement: PNPCA process including the legal compliance as provided by domestic laws has not yet been complied with; and 3) the approval of the cabinet and other defendants to sign the Xayaburi PPA is not legitimate…Given the fact from both parties, the Court found that information disclosure in the websites…was complete and met with the Thai Constitution…Also, the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Energy did not fail to follow the cabinet’s resolution and the Constitution.  The Power Purchase Agreement was not regarded as a project or activity; therefore it was not necessary to conduct a study, evaluation and consultation.  In other word, the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand had no responsibility…Lastly, the Court found that the Ministry of National Resources and Environment through the Department of Water Resources completely fulfilled its responsibility to conduct public consultations according to the PNPCA.  The Court, hereby, dismisses the case.

Download the full document here

6 January 2016

Thai villagers to appeal court decision on Xayaburi dam lawsuit

Author: Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers

“Mekong Villagers To Appeal Xayaburi Court Case Decision”, 25 Dec 2015

Thailand’s Administrative Court today found that state agencies involved in the destructive Xayaburi Dam, under construction on the Mekong River, have complied with Thai law by disclosing basic information about the project on their websites…“We are extremely disappointed by the Court’s verdict,…Xayaburi Dam will have far-reaching impacts throughout the basin…However communities have not been meaningfully consulted, nor informed about the project, and no transboundary impact assessment has been carried out”…“While justice has not yet been achieved, we are ready to file an appeal to the Supreme Court…We are confident that this is not the end of the fight for the rights of Mekong communities…This case is very important to Thailand and to the region. It is the first community-filed lawsuit in the region related to dam building on the Mekong River and the first lawsuit on a transboundary project. We hope that through an appeal, Mekong communities in Thailand will receive the justice that they deserve and that the case will enable the country's justice system to cover the extraterritorial obligation of state agencies, companies and banks involved in projects such as the Xayaburi Dam”…  

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4 January 2016

Court dismisses villagers’ lawsuit against govt. agencies for impacts in Thailand of Xayaburi Dam in Laos; villagers vow to appeal

Author: Paritta Wangkiat & Mongkol Bangprapa, Bangkok Post

“Court backs Xayaburi legal process”

Villagers opposing the Xayaburi dam in Laos have vowed to appeal the Administrative Court's decision yesterday to dismiss the lawsuit regarding the dam which alleged that Thai state agencies signed the power purchase agreement (PPA) illegally.

While reading out the ruling, the judge said "the defendants did not neglect their duty, so the case is dismissed”…

Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, Coordinator of the Community Resource Centre and lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, said she would discuss the ruling with the 37 villagers who filed the case and appeal since the court has yet to consider the transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi dam, which is located on the Mekong River in Laos…

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23 December 2015

Thailand: Groups call for regulation of outbound investment ahead of court decision on transboundary Xayaburi dam case

Author: Thai NGOs monitoring outbound investment

Thai NGOs monitoring foreign investment are calling on the government to enact an outbound investment law and oversight body to prevent harmful social and environmental impacts of Thai investment projects in other countries, and protect Thailand’s international reputation.

“Large-scale projects that are opposed by Thai communities and do not meet the requirements of Thai law are instead being built by Thai developers in neighboring countries with weaker legal institutions, such as Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar,” says Areewan Sombunwatthanakun of the Spirit Education Movement

This call comes three days before the Thai Administrative Court rules on a challenge brought by Thai villagers living on the Mekong River against the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and four other state bodies for agreeing to buy 90 % of electricity from the $3.5 billion Xayaburi hydropower dam. The dam is being built and financed by Thai companies in neighboring Laos...

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30 November 2015

Mekong villagers in fight for their rights

Author: Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, Bangkok Post

The Administrative Court will today begin hearing a ground-breaking lawsuit regarding the transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi dam, located on the Mekong River in Laos -- how it will affect communities and livelihoods in Thailand. The case was filed by 37 villagers from the Network of Thai People in Eight Provinces, who have been engaged in a legal battle over the project since 2012. 

The lawsuit hinges on the responsibilities of Thai government agencies to communities which face impacts on their livelihoods due to Thailand's plans to purchase power from the dam...

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23 July 2015

Thai Court Holds Hope for Transboundary Justice in the Mekong

Author: Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers

It has been just over a year since the case was accepted by the Thai Supreme Administrative Court, in an unprecedented decision which signified the Court’s recognition of the importance of the Mekong River to lives and livelihoods of communities in Thailand, and the potential devastating transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi Dam, which have heretofore been denied by both the Thai project developer, Ch Karnchang, and the government of Laos…The lawsuit has become a regional case study, as it pioneers the use of legal mechanisms in holding government agencies and companies accountable for their involvement in cross-border projects and upholding the rights of local communities…Our hope is that the Xayaburi Dam case will set an important precedent and act as a new mechanism to protect communities, their natural resources and the environment…

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14 November 2014

Thailand: Military turns up in lawyer-client meeting on dam case; permission needed for client meetings, lawyer told

Author: Prachatai English (Thailand)


“Military interrupts private meeting of lawyer, clients in Isan”, 12 November 2014

Military and police officers…interrupted a private meeting between a lawyer and her clients in northeastern Udon Thani Province, while they were discussing a case related to the environmental impact of a dam. The military also told the lawyer to ask for permission for every meeting with her clients…[T]he military allowed the meeting to continue, but did not leave the venue and observed the talk, according to Sor Rattanamanee Polka, the lawyer from the Community Resources Centre (CRC). The officers also collected documents related to the cases…The meeting was to discuss the case against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), in which 20 villagers affected by the construction of the Xayaburi hydroelectric dam on the Lower Mekong River in northern Laos are co-plaintiffs…

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20 October 2014

Thailand: Mekong communities call on court to halt construction of Xayaburi Dam in Laos pending case resolution

Author: Nation (Thailand)

“Mekong communities seek injunction on Xayaburi Dam deal”, 16 October 2014

A network of Thai people living in provinces along the Mekong River…lodged a petition with the Administrative Court in Bangkok, seeking an injunction on the power-purchasing agreement of the controversial Xayaburi hydro-power project in Laos. "Today's plea for an injunction follows the decision by Thailand's Supreme Administrative Court…to accept the network's right to bring a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Xayaburi Dam's purchasing agreement in Thailand, even though the project is located in Laos" said Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer and coordinator from the Community Resource Centre. "Given the transboundary environmental and social risks associated with the project, all construction and further investment should be halted until the court has made a final decision," she said…The Supreme Administrative Court has already acknowledged the potential transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi Dam, ruling that: "the project may cause impacts to the environment, water quality and quantity, the flow of water, and the ecological balance of the Mekong basin as well as other transboundary impacts…"

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17 October 2014

Thai Mekong Communities Take Further Legal Steps to Stop Xayaburi Dam

Author: Pianporn Deetes, International Rivers

…[A] number of villagers…travelled to the Administrative Court in Bangkok on Wednesday to request an injunction calling for the suspension of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the Xayaburi Dam, the first dam now under construction on the Lower Mekong River mainstream.  The injunction follows on from the decision by the Supreme Administrative Court on June 24th to hear a case brought forward by Thai villagers against the five government bodies responsible for signing the agreement to purchase power from the Xayaburi Dam.  The case argues that the PPA is illegal under Thai law…and that it should never have been signed, as the project’s environmental and social impacts in Thailand were not studied and communities in Thailand were not meaningfully consulted…[T]he injunction’s objective is to prevent further construction…before it’s too late for the people in Thailand…The case itself is groundbreaking in recognizing and articulating the transboundary impacts of the Xayaburi Dam, which the government of Laos and project developers have continued to deny.  It is also the first case to require a Thai state-owned company building a project overseas to comply with Thai laws.

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