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Xayaburi dam lawsuit (re Laos & Thailand)

xayaburi-dam-protest-credit-International-Rivers

In 2012, a group of 30 villagers filed a lawsuit in Thai court against Thai government agencies, including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. The plaintiffs argue a dam under construction on the Mekong River will cause significant damage to the river's ecosystem and displace the lives of millions of people. 

 

In 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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Article
12 July 2014

Dam Projects Ignite a Legal Battle Over Mekong River’s Future

Author: Michelle Nijhuis, National Geographic

…[T]he Xayaburi project, along with several other large dams proposed downstream, are vehemently opposed…because of their threats to the river and those who depend on it…In June,…a Thai national court agreed to hear a lawsuit by 37 villagers who are challenging the Thai government's plans to buy most of the power…In 2012, when the villagers initiated their lawsuit against five Thai government agencies, they alleged that the government's plans to buy electricity generated by the Xayaburi Dam violated…the 1995 Mekong Agreement, a nonbinding commitment to cooperative river management signed by Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.  In February 2013, an administrative court declined to hear the case…The villagers appealed to Thailand's Supreme Administrative Court, and on June 24, the court agreed with their contention that…EGAT…had failed to properly notify the public about the Xayaburi project and had not conducted an adequate environmental assessment…The court's recognition of the villagers' stake in the issue does not halt construction, but it has…financial implications for the Xayaburi, whose future depends in large part on the confidence of its Thai backers…

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Article
25 June 2014

Egat's access to dam power in doubt

Author: Janjira Pongrai, The Nation (Thailand)

THE SUPREME Administrative Court has agreed to rule on a case involving the Xayaburi Dam, which is now being constructed in Laos. The case…will affect the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand's (Egat) contract to buy electricity from the Bt120-billion dam. If the contract is cancelled, there is a possibility the ongoing construction may come to a halt. The Egat, after all, is a major buyer of electricity from this dam project…Located on the Mekong River, the Xayaburi Dam has caused serious concern among people living downstream…"We will rule on this case because available 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," court judge Suchat Mongkollertlop said…He also pointed to the need to provide adequate information to stakeholders and to assess impacts on the environment, public health and society…

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Article
24 June 2014

Thai court accepts villagers’ lawsuit on transboundary impacts of Xayaburi Dam in Laos

Author: Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters

"Thai court takes villagers' case against power firm, Laos dam", 24 June 2014

A Thai court accepted a lawsuit against state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and four other state bodies…for agreeing to buy electricity from a $3.5 billion hydropower dam being built in neighbouring Laos. The Xayaburi dam…will be the first on the main stream of the Mekong…Activists say the project threatens the livelihood of tens of millions who depend on the river's resources. Villagers from Thai provinces near the Mekong petitioned the Administrative Court in 2012 to suspend a power purchasing agreement signed by EGAT and Laos's Xayaburi Power Company Limited but the court ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the case. That decision was reversed…when the Supreme Administrative Court sided with villagers, who are demanding full environmental and health impact assessments. Shares in Thai builder CH Karnchang, the main contractor for the controversial dam, were down 3.1 percent at 0810 GMT after the decision…

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Article
22 June 2014

Justice for the Mekong – Thai Villagers Back to Court

Author: Pianporn Deetes

Two years ago a group of around 100 villagers from...the north and northeast...arrived outside the Thai Administrative Court in Bangkok…Among the group were 37 villagers...[who filed] a lawsuit against the Xayaburi Dam – the first dam planned on the Mekong mainstream…[T]hese villagers will be back in court to hear a ruling from the Supreme Administrative Court…whether or not to accept the lawsuit…The lawsuit – filed against five government bodies, including…the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT)…[which] is set to buy 95% of the power…claims that approval of the project’s Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is illegal under both the Thai Constitution and the 1995 Mekong Agreement. The PPA made between EGAT and the Xayaburi Power Company Limited, was approved without an assessment of the project’s environmental and health impacts and without consultations in Thailand…[T]he Administrative Court…[denied] jurisdiction to hear the communities’ case…[T]he communities…filed a formal appeal…If the lawsuit is accepted it would be within the Court’s power to suspend the PPA until transboundary impact studies are carried out and consultations are held in Thailand...

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