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  1. #1
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    Ubon Ratchathani Pak Moon dam gates to open fully

    Pak Moon dam gates to open fully
    Villagers tired of constant Egat delays
    By Kultida Samabuddhi


    After a delay of one and a half months, the Pak Moon dam's sluice gates will be fully opened next Sunday to allow fish from the Mekong river to migrate to the Moon river in Ubon Ratchathani province. Pak Moon fishermen have already started to fish in the river after the Energy Ministry partially lifted the gates last Thursday to adjust the water level in preparation of the full opening of the dam's eight gates, prompting some Mekong fish stock to swim into the Moon river.
    Controversy over the opening of the Pak Moon dam sluice gates emerges almost every year as the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), the dam operator, consistently delays the gate opening.
    A 2004 cabinet resolution instructs Egat to open the gates for four months starting in May, which is the beginning of the wet season, to allow fish from the Mekong river to spawn in the Moon river, boosting fish stocks.
    The opening has been delayed for almost 50 days this year, leading to a protest by Pak Moon villagers in Bangkok last month.
    The Energy Ministry, which oversees Egat, eventually agreed on May 29, that the Pak Moon dam sluice gates will be fully opened to allow a free flow of the river for four months, starting from June 17.
    ''Later is better than never,'' said Pak Moon villager representative Sompan Kuendee. ''But we hope that this will be the last time that we are kept waiting because the delays badly affect us.''
    The villagers said the beginning of May was the most appropriate time to open the sluice gates because it was the peak of fish migration season.
    The delay of the opening would result in a decrease of fish stock in the Moon river because less fish will spawn in the river, they say.
    ''More importantly, the villagers need money from selling fish during this time of the year, when schools are opened and family expenses are higher,'' Ms Sompan said.
    Nantachote Chairat, adviser to the Assembly of the Poor, a network of people affected by state policies and projects, including the dam, said the villagers demanded the sluice gates be opened permanently. Research conducted by various agencies showed that electricity production was only a ''by-product'' of the dam, he said.
    The Energy Ministry also says in the May 29 cabinet resolution which acknowledges the dam gates opening that the dam should be operated mainly for fisheries and irrigation purposes, he said.
    The ministry told cabinet that even without electricity supply from the dam, there will be sufficient electricity for the northeastern region. ''Therefore, the dam should mainly serve fisheries and irrigation activities,'' according to the cabinet resolution. Pak Moon fishermen will hold a celebration of the dam gates opening on Thursday to welcome the fishing season.

    Bangkok Post

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    Pak Moon villagers look to NHRC for help

    Govt slammed for dirty dam tricks
    Pak Moon villagers look to NHRC for help

    Villagers near the Pak Moon dam petitioned the National Human Rights Commission yesterday to help them regain protection of their fishing rights after the government went back on its word and decided to keep the sluice gates of the controversial dam closed. Local protesters said it was the ''dirtiest decision'' so far and claimed it was politically motivated.

    Twelve members of the Committee on the Moon River Community Restoration group sent a petition to the commission's office, asking its chairman Saneh Chamarik to urgently look into the cabinet's reversal.
    The cabinet granted the decision to keep the gates closed on June 12 even though it had earlier agreed to open the dam by June 17.
    Studies say the dam blocks fish from migrating upstream from the Mekong river to spawn in its tributary, the Moon river.
    Following strong protests from fishermen, the Thaksin government agreed to open the dam for four months of the year to allow for the migration.
    It agreed to open the dam in May every year, but this year the opening has continually been delayed by dam operator Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
    Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont personally promised local fishermen that the sluice gates would be opened when he visited the region in April.
    The government's decision not to open the dam has drawn scorn from fishermen and scholars who condemned the cabinet for breaking its promise.

    ''It's the most dirty decision I've ever seen,'' said Prapat Pintobtaeng of Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Political Science.
    ''The villagers are very angry and want to seize the dam, but we have tried to pacify them for fear of violent clashes.''

    Mr Prapat suggested that the military-installed government's decision to go back on its word may be an attempt to put pressure on villagers in the northeastern province, which was a stronghold of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party.
    The struggling villagers are simply viewed by the military government as ''people of the Thaksin regime'' who favour his populist policies, he added.
    Mr Prapat said the plan to keep the sluice gates closed was allegedly suggested by Gen Surin Pikulthong, who directs a special panel on land problems under the Internal Security Operations Command, chaired by army chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin.
    Many soldiers have also been ordered to monitor villagers' activities in Ubon Ratchathani, he said.
    ''The villagers need to have their ID cards checked and have to ask the soldiers for a permit even if they are just going to work in a sugarcane farm,'' Mr Prapat said.
    Security however, is being tightened countrywide as anti-government demonstrators continue with their angry protests and reports continue to come out of upcountry villagers being paid to join the rally in the capital. Pak Moon dam protesters said the cabinet's decision would affect the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen who had spent money to buy fishing equipment but would now not have enough fish to catch.

    Bangkok Post

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    Pak Moon Dam sluice gates to open fully June 30

    PAK MOON DAM
    Egat to open sluice gates fully June 30

    APINYA WIPATAYOTIN

    The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has promised to fully open Pak Moon dam's sluice gates next Saturday, after having postponed the opening at the request of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc). Wattana Thongsiri, Egat's assistant governor in charge of the hydro power plant, said the agency had been told to delay the opening of the dam's eight sluice gates from June 17 to 30.

    ''Isoc recently asked us to delay the gates' opening, saying it was meant to help farmers in need of water for farming,'' Mr Wattana said at a forum yesterday. ''The sluice gates will be fully opened on June 30 if there is no new order against that.''
    A 2004 cabinet resolution instructs Egat to open the sluice gates for four months per year starting in May, which is the beginning of the rainy season, to allow fish from the Mekong river to spawn in the Moon river.
    The opening has been delayed by almost two months so far this year, leading to a protest by Pak Moon villagers in Bangkok last month.
    The Energy Ministry, which oversees Egat, agreed on May 29 that the dam's gates be opened as of June 17 to allow a free flow of the river for four months.
    However, on June 12 the cabinet quietly issued a new resolution, instructing Egat to keep the dam's gates shut as recommended by the Isoc.
    The resolution also orders the dissolution of all the existing committees tackling controversies surrounding the Pak Moon dam and empowers the Isoc to exclusively deal with the dam issues.
    Pak Moon villagers and academics yesterday called on the cabinet to revoke the June 12 resolution.
    ''The cabinet should not base its decision on the security agency's opinion alone. The villagers' problems cannot by solved from the military and security agencies' point of view,'' says a statement released by a network of academics studying the dam controversy.
    Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont ''should know the matter has nothing to do with security,'' said Prakob Wirojanagud, president of Ubon Ratchathani University. ''Everything will run smoothly if Gen Surayud simply follows the May 29 cabinet resolution regarding the full opening of the dam's sluice gates.'' Supawit Piempongsarn, a former inspector of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said the interim government had ''no clear understanding of the matter and was being misled by state officials''.

    Bangkok Post

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    Pak Moon villagers on verge of violence

    Pak Moon villagers on verge of violence
    Threaten to storm dam, force open gates
    YUWADEE TUNYASIRI

    The Assembly of the Poor has threatened to forcibly open the Pak Moon dam's sluice gates after the government failed to uphold earlier resolutions to keep the gates open for four months a year. The assembly, which represents villagers affected by the dam in Ubon Ratchathani province, yesterday released a statement slamming the government, accusing it of overlooking the plight of Pak Moon villagers.

    Instead of abiding by a 2004 cabinet resolution that requires the dam gates to be kept open for four months annually, the cabinet on June 12 passed a new resolution instructing the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to keep the sluice gates shut.
    The resolution also ordered the dissolution of all existing committees tackling controversies surrounding the dam, and empowered the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) as the sole authority to deal with issues related to the dam. The Assembly of the Poor also criticised Council for National Security (CNS) chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin for breaking his promise to help push their call for the opening of the sluice gates during Tuesday's cabinet meeting.


    The delay in the opening of the dam's gates this year had already prompted villagers to stage protests in Bangkok in May.
    In its statement, the assembly yesterday vowed to lead the affected villagers to force open all the dam's sluice gates even though such action would land them in jail or subject them to intimidation in various forms.
    During the Thaksin Shinawatra government, Ubon Ratchathani University conducted a study on the potentially negative impact the dam could have on the local people. Its findings suggested that all the dam's sluice gates should be kept open permanently to replenish fish stocks vital to local livelihoods.
    The cabinet later resolved in 2004 to have the dam's sluice gates opened for four months yearly, beginning at the start of the rainy season in May, to allow fish from the Mekong river to spawn in the Moon river.
    A source said Gen Sonthi raised the issue of opening the dam gates with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont before attending the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
    However, the issue was not raised in the actual meeting.
    The source also said Gen Sonthi had tried to push for the opening of the gates, as he would like to gain voter support in the Northeast following widespread reports that he is considering contesting the next general election.
    Gen Surayud personally promised fishermen that the dam's sluice gates would be opened when he visited the region in April. However, his government later decided not to follow through with its promise saying it wanted to set up a committee to study the problem first.

    Bangkok Post

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    Farmers from the Assembly of the Poor try to force their way into Government House compound yesterday as they demand that the sluice gates at Pak Moon dam in Ubon Ratchathani be opened. They slammed the government for ignoring their plight, saying the annual release of water is essential for their livelihood.

    Bangkok Post
    PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD

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    Pak Mun villagers have been turned away from Government House

    Old war, new battle for Pak Mun villagers


    Once again Pak Mun villagers have been turned away from Government House with the fate of their river lives and livelihoods undecided.

    By Subhatra Bhumiprabhas
    The Nation
    Published on July 16,2007

    If you were passing Government House on Tuesday evening you could have spotted as many as 70 villagers waiting there.
    They were from Pak Mun and all members of Assembly of the Poor. They travelled to Bangkok to hear a military junta-appointed Cabinet decision in their fate.
    But, a few hours earlier they had been forcibly removed from inside the grounds by police and told the Cabinet was not scheduled tom discuss their plight.
    "I have been hearing about Pak Mun people for a very long time. I have sympathy for them because no one wants to leave home for these conditions. But, I've forgotten why they are protesting. Are they still around? Why is it not over yet?" one person asked.

    Villagers themselves have lost count of the times since 1989 they have travelled to the capital to demonstrate first against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) removing them from their land to make way for a new dam and then over the flow of the river. The latest trip was made after a June 12 Cabinet decision decided to close the dam's sluice gates forever. Two weeks earlier the Cabinet agreed Pak Mun Dam could open its gates four months a year.

    The group came from Ubon Ratchathani province to demand the opening of the gates as promised.
    Why?
    Sompong Wiengchan, 56, tells how the villagers have made the long journey numerous times to battle for their existence and livings.
    "We don't want to come but we have to come because our problems have never been solved," said Sompong, a 20-year veteran of this contest. The Cabinet of late prime minister Chatichai Choonhavan approved the dam back in 1989. The dam was built between 1991 and 1994.

    It destroyed the livelihoods and way of life of about 6,000 families that relied on the Mun River. These villages were no longer able to earn livings from fishing. They demanded compensation.
    In 1994 Egat paid each family Bt90,000. Of this amount Bt30,000 went directly to people and Bt60,000 went to the community's cooperative. But, problems did not end there.

    The community's way of life has been changed because of the drastic reduction in fish numbers in the river. The dam blocks the upstream migration of fish from the Mekong. Thousands of fishermen have left home to take jobs as labourers. Many work on construction sites in far-away provinces. Some of the elderly came to Bangkok where they collect and sell junk.
    "My three children left home to work in the city," Sompong said.

    Those who remained scratch out a living making brooms to sell at markets.
    Compensation

    For almost two decades the villagers have been demanding justice. The governments of Chatichai, AnandPanyarachun, Banharn Silapa-archa, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Chuan Leekpai and Thaksin Shinawatra have come and gone without a resolution.
    "It seems the problem will be settled but it never is," Sompong said. She has been involved in negotiations since she was a young woman.
    In 1997 the Chavalit Cabinet agreed to compensate the villagers with land - 15 rai for each displaced family - or Bt500,000.
    Nothing was ever received following the cancellation of this deal by the Chuan administration in 1999. It said the Pak Mun problem was created by earlier administrations and no more compensation would be paid.
    "We returned home empty handed," Sompong recalled.

    The dam-gate saga

    Between 2001 and 2002 the government asked Egat to keep the dam gates open the year round following Ubon
    Ratchathani University research showing this would allow the villagers to return to their old livelihoods.
    "I earned about Bt20,000 from fishing that year," Sompong recalled.

    The study found when the river flowed freely year round families could earn more than Bt10,000 from fishing. When the gates were shut that fell to just Bt3,000 a year.
    The study suggested the dam gates should be opened all year, or at least for five months in the wet season between July and
    November. This allowed fish to migrate upstream and breed.
    But, in 2004 the Thaksin government decided on a four- month opening. While this did not entirely please the villagers it was a compromise and their protests ended.
    "At least we still could catch fish and exchange them for rice," Sompong said.

    Three years later they are back
    The current government ordered the gates opened on June 7. They remained closed.
    Sompong and 70 others packed their bags and made the familiar trip to Government House. They were determined to find out why.
    They were puzzled when Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told them the four- month opening had been reversed and the decision was based on recommendations by the Internal Security Operations Command.
    It claimed more than 21,000 villagers had signed an agreement that the gates be kept shut.
    "Villagers knew nothing about this 'referendum'. We asked the government to show us the names of those who had agreed to this move. It refused," Sompong said.

    Members of the Surayud executive declined to meet with the villagers. Pak Mun people still know nothing of their fate. They believe this government is perpetrating their despair. The dam ruined their lives but governments have since ignored them, Sompong said.
    "We have to continue fighting."

    Violence at Pak Mun
    March 1993: Hooded men attack villagers protesting at the dam site injuring 33.

    December 1993: Clashes between dam supporters and protesters at a Baan Hua Haew construction site. One protester is seriously injured after being shot.

    July 2000: Special police disperse Pak Mun villagers protesting at Government House. More than 200 are arrested and charged withtrespass.

    December 2002: Hooded men raid, demolish and burn shelters at Moo Baan Mae Mun Yangyuen and another location constructed by dam protesters.

    January 2003: Bangkok Governor Samak Sundaravej orders 1,000 city officials to tear down a protest site at Government House.
    Belongings were confiscated and disposed of.

    July 10, 2007: 70 villagers forced to leave the Government
    House by 300 police. Four protesters are injured.

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    Cabinet fuels Pak Moon villagers' fury
    Fishermen denounce new govt resolution
    APINYA WIPATAYOTIN

    A new cabinet resolution empowering Ubon Ratchathani governor to make a decision on when to open the Pak Moon dam's sluice gates was denounced by the affected villagers yesterday. Pak Moon fishermen affected by the dam gates' closure denounced the cabinet's resolution and vowed to ''seek justice in their own way''.

    Under the resolution, a new water management committee, chaired by the Ubon Ratchathani governor, will be set up to supervise the opening of the Pak Moon dam's sluice gates, already delayed for over two months now.
    Yesterday's cabinet resolution overrides the 2001 resolution, issued by the deposed Thaksin government, instructing the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) to open the dam gates for four months, starting from the beginning of the wet season of each year, to allow fish from the Mekong to migrate to the Moon river.
    The military-installed government resolved that the opening of the dam gates should be considered on a yearly basis and should be based on the condition of the river's ecology.
    Sutee Markboon, the Ubon Ratchathani governor, said he would listen to all parties involved before making a decision on when, and for how long, the dam's gates should be opened this year.
    The cabinet resolution will only lead to more protests, said the Pak Moon fishermen, who have been suffering from diminishing fish stocks.
    The dam gates' closure has prevented aquatic animals from the Mekong to migrate to the Moon river, they complained.
    ''The government has forced us to resort to other means to fight for the dam's opening,'' Sompan Kheundee, a representative of the Pak Moon villagers, said without elaborating.
    Ms Sompan said it was unacceptable for the government to authorise the provincial governor to handle such a highly-controversial issue, because he did not understand the villagers' traditional way of life.
    Nuntachote Chairat, an adviser to the Assembly of the Poor, said the government should not pass on the decision-making power to the provincial governor, whose work has always been interfered with by ''invisible hands''.
    ''It seems that this government has never paid any attention to the academics' research work, which has confirmed that the opening of the dam's sluice gates during the wet season will neither affect rice farmers nor electricity production,'' he said.
    Tension over the delay in the Pak Moon dam opening has become more serious since early last month when the Surayud government reversed its May 29 resolution to open the dam's gates, citing a possible protest from rice farmers.
    To ease the mounting tension, Council for National Security chairman Sonthi Boonyaratkalin last week told academics and villagers' representatives that he would help push for the dam gates' opening by discussing the matter with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. The government, however, insisted on delaying the dam opening and empowered the provincial governor to make a final decision on the matter.

    Bangkok Post

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    No Relief For Pak Moon

    NO RELIEF FOR PAK MOON
    Govt move to duck responsibility on dam issue is very disappointing
    Story by APINYA WIPATAYOTIN

    The cabinet's latest decision on the controversial Pak Moon dam in Ubon Ratchathani is a disappointment. Despite its full authority, the government passed the hot potato on to local officials to make a decision on the management of the dam's sluice gates and handle conflicts that may escalate into confrontation.

    It is evident that the affected Pak Moon villagers have no trust in a committee under the Ubon Ratchathani governor. Any decision it makes will hardly go any way to ending the long-standing problem if it calls to question issues of transparency and fairness.

    Without fairness, the Pak Moon protest at Government House will never end.

    The government owes the public an explanation about why it decided to reverse its previous resolution on the opening of the dam's sluice gates, which was made on June 17.

    The change of position puts not only the government but also Council for National Security (CNS) chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, who is also director of the Internal Security Operations Command, in a bad light.

    There were reports that Gen Sonthi asked the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to suspend the opening. The request was made after he met with a group of villagers in Ubon Ratchathani and through village headmen received a petition with a reported 30,000 signatures of dam supporters.

    For many, Gen Sonthi's decision has something to do with his political ambitions, as he will need to maintain his popularity if he is to run in the next general election after his retirement as army chief.

    After all, village chiefs and people in the fish farming business are influential groups who oppose the opening of the dam gates.Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont may well know that the issue is politicised and it is useless to make any decision on whether to keep the gates closed or open them.

    Besides, the government chose to listen to bureaucrats rather than the affected villagers. By making such a decision, Gen Surayud can avoid possible conflict with the CNS chief.

    The demand of affected villagers that the dam gates be opened for four months is not too much.

    The first four-month opening was made as a compromise between the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and the affected villagers when Thaksin Shinawatra took office in 2001.
    It requires bravery and political will to make the right decision on this long-standing issue.

    Bangkok Post

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    Does anyone know what is actually at stake here? There seem to be some very powerful people who do not want the dam opened, but why?

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    ^It's EGAT and power generation. Open the sluice gates and the dam is able to generate less power meaning more has to be bought from abroad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by buad hai View Post
    ^It's EGAT and power generation. Open the sluice gates and the dam is able to generate less power meaning more has to be bought from abroad.
    Call me a suspicious old fart, but I think there must be more to it than that. I hardly think Egat would send hooded men to attack protesters.

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    General dares villagers to force open dam gates

    General dares villagers to force open dam gates

    General Surin Phikulthong, chairman of a government subcommittee working on land ownership problems, yesterday challenged protesting villagers to carry out their threat to force open the Pak Mun Dam sluice gates.

    "Open it if you dare," he said in a telephone interview with The Nation. "But don't forget that the number of people who want the sluice gates to be closed are more than you."

    However, Surin, who was assigned by the military-appointed government working to oversee the Pak Mun Dam through the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc), did not reply when asked what would happen if the villagers really used force to open the gates as they had vowed.

    Surin insisted that the Cabinet resolution late last month to let the dam store water to its full capacity, rather than open the gates as decided by the Thaksin administration three years ago, was just. He said it was based on the demand by more than 20,000 villagers from 85 villages. He claimed that only 400 villagers under the Assembly of the Poor had demanded the sluice gates be opened. His argument was countered by political scientists who have monitored the issue for more than a decade.

    Prapas Pintobtaeng of Chulalongkorn University said the government was trying to distort facts with the politics of numbers. Prapas, also part of two national committees set up by both the Chuan Leekpai and Thaksin Shinawatra administrations to solve problems related to the dam, criticised the logic of numbers Surin used to justify the future of the dam and the villagers as "irrational".

    "Using mathematical figures without a rational foundation is nothing but crude force," he said.

    He was supported by his Chulalongkorn colleague, Surichai Wangaeo, who said that justice could not be measured by numbers.
    "Mathematics knows no justice," he said, adding that social justice must be created and measured by history and reason. "If we used numbers to calculate justice, this means we would allow a group of people with bigger numbers to kill another group that has smaller numbers," he said.

    Pennapa Hongthong
    The Nation

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    Governor agrees to open Pak Moon dam

    Governor agrees to open Pak Moon dam
    Local villagers remain sceptical it will happen
    NILA SINGKHIRI and APINYA WIPATAYOTIN

    The governor of Ubon Ratchathani has agreed to open the Pak Moon dam's sluice gates next week after a series of reversals by the state and angry protests by villagers that have lasted for over two months.

    But Pak Moon villagers remain sceptical of whether the gates really will be opened as the decision needs to be approved by the Interior Ministry before the water can begin to flow.
    Governor Sutee Boonmark has proposed partially opening eight sluice gates on Wednesday or Thursday to adjust the water levels. The dam's gates will be gradually lifted until they are fully opened within 15 days, he said.
    However, the governor said, the proposal has to be approved by the Interior Ministry first.
    The move came after the cabinet decided on Tuesday to allow the Ubon Ratchathani governor to have the final say over when to open the dam's gates.
    On Wednesday night the governor met all parties concerned, including Pak Moon fishermen, farmers and a representative from the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), the dam operator, to decide on a suitable time to open the sluice gates.
    Pak Moon fisherman Thongcharoen Sihatham, who represented villagers at the meeting, said he had little confidence the gates would really open.
    ''No one can guarantee that the dam's gates will be opened. We have seen many changes. Even the Surayud [Chulanont] cabinet has reversed its decision several times,'' Mr Thongcharoen said.
    On May 29, the government approved the Energy Ministry's proposal for the dam's gates be opened in mid-June. However, two weeks later, it reversed the decision and ordered the dam's gates to remain closed, citing possible protests from local farmers.
    On Tuesday, the cabinet authorised the Ubon Ratchathani governor to make the final decision on when and for how long the dam's gates should be opened.
    However, the governor told the villagers that he had to ask for approval from the interior minister before going ahead with the opening of the gates.
    ''We can no longer trust this government. All this flip-flopping over the Pak Moon dam suggests the prime minister and his cabinet are untrustworthy,'' the villagers said in a statement issued yesterday. ''The fish migration season has been under way for almost two months now, but the dam has blocked the river, preventing Mekong fish migrating to the Moon river. This government has kept us waiting for too long and we might have to open the dam's gates by our own means.''

    Bangkok Post

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    Dam's gates partially opened

    UBON RATCHATHANI / PAK MOON
    Dam's gates partially opened


    Ubon Ratchathani _ All eight sluice gates of Pak Moon dam were partially opened yesterday following last week's cabinet resolution and a series of protests by villagers affected by the closure of the gates.

    Ubon Ratchathani governor Suthee Boonmark, who presided over the opening of the sluice gates, said dam water would be released daily to maintain the Moon river's level at mean sea level.

    The cabinet resolved last Tuesday to let the provincial governor have the final say over when to open the dam's gates.

    Under the cabinet's resolution, a new water management committee is to be set up to supervise the annual opening of the dam's sluice gates, which had been delayed by more than two months. The committee will be chaired by the provincial governor.

    Tension over the delay heightened early last month, with the affected villagers accusing the government of going back on its promise to open the dam's gates.

    The government argued that opening the gates too soon could trigger protests by local rice farmers.

    A source said no villagers showed up at yesterday's ceremony to open the dam's gates. The event was attended by dam staff, local officials, soldiers and police.

    Provincial authorities are reportedly keeping a close watch on two groups of villagers to see how they will react to the dam opening.

    One group wants the dam's gates to stay open so that fish can swim upstream from the Mekong river to spawn in the Moon river.

    The other group wants the gates to remain shut, fearing their farmland and fish raised in baskets could be affected by rising water levels.

    Bangkok Post

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    Pak Mun Dam gates to be opened

    Pak Mun Dam gates to be opened


    The Pak Mun Dam gates will be opened as the dam can no longer contain the large amount of water from heavy rain, the Ubon Ratchathani provincial authority said Saturday.

    Governor Suthee Boonmak said the authority would open eight gates of the dam to drain a large amount of water and to prevent flash flooding over residential areas.

    Heavy rain has covered 10 districts, three sub-districts, 70 tambons and 727 villages. More than 10,000 residents have been affected by floods and more than 60,000 agricultural areas are under water. Flash floods also damaged 73 roads and four bridges.

    The most affected areas are in Phibun Mangsahan district because these areas had to contain water from two districts and the dam officers had already opened dam gates on Friday to drain 263 million cubic metres of water.

    The provincial governor expressed concern about Det Udom district and Na Yia sub-district because these areas are close to the Lam Dom Yai River and are prone to flash floods.

    Monsoon rains have also affected Loei province. Saneh Nonthachoti, chief of Phu Kradung district, said the rain had hit Phu Kradung's residential and agricultural areas. There were 660 residents and 512 households affected though fatalities and disappearances had not been reported.

    However the authority reported that 1,761 rice fields had overflowed and 565 fish farms, 25 roads, six bridges and 24 check dams were affected. The total costs were Bt1.9 million.

    Heavy rain also affected other parts of country. Toeng Lebsangwaan, a resident of Wiang Thong village in Chiang Mai's Muang district, said she was preparing to clear her house and move herself and her family to a higher place. She complained that there had been no assistance from local officials.

    Chiang Mai mayor Duentemduang na Chiang Mai had in fact launched a plan to protect the city from flash floods. The plan was to plant Vetiver grass for 3,100 metres along the river and to fill 200,000 sacks with mud from the river to create a wall against the water.

    Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department reported that the southwest monsoon is still active over the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, and heavy rain would continue in the eastern part of Thailand. Residents in this area should be prepared for downfalls.

    The department said waves two- to three-metres high were also expected in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand and all ships should proceed with caution.

    Bangkok and the nearby provinces have also experienced storms. The amount of water is expected to increase in coming days so agriculturists should prepare for flash floods by digging canals around plantation areas to drain water.

    The department also warned about the spread of plant diseases in the rainy season.

    The Nation

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    Dam's sluice gates opened to make room for flood water

    Dam's sluice gates opened to make room for flood water


    Ubon Ratchathani _ All eight sluice gates of the Pak Moon dam were opened yesterday, making room in the reservoir for flood water moving down the Moon river. ''Opening the gates now will ensure Ubon Ratchathani does not suffer from devastating floods like those between 2001 and 2003,'' said provincial governor Suthee Markboon.

    Flood water from Si Sa Ket province is flowing downstream to the Moon river.

    Water from dams in Khon Kaen and Kalasin provinces has already been released into the Chee river, which merges with the Moon river.

    This has raised the level of the Moon river, which runs through the city of Ubon Ratchathani.

    Mr Suthee was assigned by the cabinet last month to chair a water management committee to decide when and how long the dam should be opened each year.

    The cabinet has been under heavy pressure to raise all the gates for a specific period of the year, as was agreed by the past government. People downstream rely on the water released from the dam.

    The cabinet has now given the decision-making power to the province.

    A 2004 cabinet resolution by the Thaksin Shinawatra government allowed a four-month opening period, starting in May. The present government, however, ignored the 2004 resolution and decided to close the dam to avoid possible protests by farmers who need water for farming.

    The dam opening is crucial to fish migration from the Mekong to the Moon river.

    Bangkok Post

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    Rally over Pak Moon dam
    12/01/2011

    Several thousand of members of the Assembly of the Poor rallied in front of the city hall of the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani on Wednesdy, demanding the government permanently open the sluice gates of the Pak Moon dam and compensate the people affected by the dam's construction.

    The protesters, led by Somparn Khuendee, an assembly's coordinator, were from Phibun Mangsahan, Khong Chiam and Sirinthorn districts.

    Ms Somparn said they want the government to comply with the recommendations of a subcommittee for solving Pak Mun dam problems, that all eight sluice gates of the dam be opened permanently and compensation be paid to those affected by the construction of the dam.

    If the government failed to comply with the demand, the Assembly of the Poor would hold a prolonged rally in front of the Ubon Ratchathani city hall, she said.

    The provincial authorities provided an area for members of the assembly to rally in peace without infringing on the rights of other people.

    On Dec 25 last year, PM's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey promised to seek cabinet approval for the proposed permanent opening of the dam's sluice gates.

    Mr Sathit chairs a government panel looking into the problems involving the dam He said his committee would forward the findings of two subcommittees for cabinet approval in February.

    The subpanels, assigned to look into the impact of the dam in Khong Chiam district and the grievances of affected residents, recommended that all sluice gates be permanently opened to allow fish from the Mekong River to spawn in the Moon River. The panels also recommended that compensation be paid to affected residents.

    The Assembly of the Poor was established in 1995 and has since held many demonstrations to promote polices that favour the downtrodden and to demand compensation for villagers who have been affected by state projects such as dams and power plants.

    One of the landmark victories of the group's struggle was the cabinet resolution to open Pak Moon dam's sluice gates to allow fish migration between the Moon and Mekong rivers during the breeding season each year.

    Completed in 1994, the dam was constructed by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand with support from the World Bank at a total cost of US$240 million (7.24 billion baht).

    The project has been criticised as harming fisheries in the Moon River, failing to produce the projected power output, and ifor nadequately compensating affected residents.

    The immediate impact of the dam was to flood 117 square kilometres of land and displace around 3,000 families.

    bangkokpost.com

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    Pak Moon protesters settle in
    13/01/2011

    Assembly of the Poor demonstrators have set up a permanent stage facing the city hall in Ubon Ratchathani, indicating their rally will be prolonged.

    About 3,000 villagers from Phibun Mangsahan, Khong Chiam and Sinrinthorn districts of Ubon Ratchathani began their rally in front of the provincial capital's city hall on Wednesday.

    They vowed to prolong the rally to press for a government answer to their demand for the permanent opening of all eight sluice gates of the Pak Moon dam.

    Their leaders denied newspaper reports that the villagers demanded compensation of 500,000 baht each. That was not true, they said.

    They want the permanent opening of the sluice gates and 15 rai of land for each of the families displaced by the dam's construction, so they can make a living.

    Prawat Rathirom, provincial deputy governor for security affairs, said provincial authorities will not hold talks with the villagers, whose demand is directed to the central government.

    Provincial authorities will, however, provide them with water, bathrooms, mobile toilets and security until they end their rally, he said.

    bangkokpost.com

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    On the Record

    Pak Moon network keeps up fight
    22/01/2011

    Sompong Vienchan is a core leader of the network opposing the Pak Moon dam project in Ubon Ratchathani and a key National Reform Committee member. He discussed with SUPARA JANCHITFA Hutopia why thousands of people affected by the Pak Moon dam felt the need to protest again.


    Sompong: ‘Compensation a myth’

    The people who were affected by the Pak Moon dam have already been compensated. Why are you still protesting?

    It is a myth that we have already received compensation. We got a total payment of 90,000 baht for lost opportunities [30,000 baht cash for missed fishing opportunities and 60,000 baht for setting up a cooperative.]

    The then-government promised that after the dam construction was completed, if villagers could not fish in the river, they would compensate us for the loss of our livelihood, housing and land. But two years after the dam began operation, it was obvious we could no longer fish there. Many of us had to move to work elsewhere _ some became garbage collectors or factory workers and left their elderly relatives at home.

    We started asking the government to redress our losses but 13 governments have failed to deliver on their promises. Every government would set up committees or sub-committees to look into the problems of Pak Moon dam and the people affected by it. But none of the 13 governments have put those conclusions, studies, research, fact findings into practice.

    If the sluice gates were open all year round, would it mean a waste of national budget?

    This project should serve as a lesson that no ``development project'' should be imposed on residential communities without real public consultations having been held.

    We did not want the dam in the first place and we have been protesting against it even before the dam was built. It costs taxpayers dearly. It destroyed the livelihoods of more than 3,084 fishing families. More than 10,000 villagers were affected directly.

    Studies showed that 63.3% of us had to move to work elsewhere after the dam began operation. This is not to mention the social disparities among us; increasing cases of domestic violence caused by stress after we lost our livelihoods. There have been many adverse social and economic consequences which cannot be measured in numbers.

    The income from the electricity generated by the dam is about 99 million baht a year but the locals lost about 140 million baht a year from their livelihoods. Think about it. What should we do?

    Why do you propose that all sluice gates be open all year round?

    We base our demands on our experiences and studies conducted by different agencies, such as Ubon Ratchathani University.

    From June 2001 to November 2002, the sluice gates were opened all year, which allowed the river to resume its natural functions. Many fish migrated from the Mekong to the Moon River, allowing villagers to catch more fish, resulting in higher incomes for them.

    Despite a cabinet resolution in 2004 which stipulated that the sluice gates must be opened for four months a year, we had to protest almost every year or else nobody would enforce it. Sometimes, Egat [the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand] would open the sluice gates in August, which was not the month that the fish migrated upstream, so it was not so useful.

    We have to emphasise that all research and studies and the public hearings last year concluded that the sluice gates should be opened permanently.

    If the dam could not operate, would it affect the generation of electricity and stability of the power supply in the area?

    According to studies such as one done by the World Commission on Dams sponsored by the World Bank, the economic return on electricity generation is very low. Many other studies also disclosed that if the electricity supplies from the Pak Moon dam were to be cut from the system, electricity stability in the area would not be affected.

    How would you address the problem of irrigation in the area if the dam is decommissioned?

    The Moon River's banks are made of steep rock, making it hard and costly for farmers to make use of the water being kept in the reservoir. Farmers need to use water pumps to draw the water from the river to their rice fields.

    The majority of farmers in our area do in-season cultivation, so they use rain water rather than water from the river. There would be a lot of problems if the authorities wanted to build irrigation canals to divert water into the area. It would cost more than one billion baht to construct more irrigation canals and build more stations to pump water. Again, the contour of the land is uneven and high, making it hard to siphon the water. Apart from that, if the sluice gates stayed closed in the rainy season, it would cause heavier flooding in Ubon Ratchathani and many other areas upstream, as evidenced this year. They had to install many pumps to siphon water from the Moon River to empty it into the Mekong.

    bangkokpost.com

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    Assembly of Poor to rally in Bangkok
    15/02/2011

    The Assembly of the Poor says thousands of its members are on their way to Bangkok for a protest to put pressure on the government to open all the sluice gates of the Pak Moon dam and properly compensate people affected by its construction.

    The assembly, which has been rallying in front of the Ubon Ratchathani provincial hall since Jan 12, on Tuesday resolved to move its protest to the parliament in Bangkok.

    There had been no positive response to its demands during the 35-day protest in the far northeastern province, said Thongpon Chaikham, a leading member of the assembly.

    About 5,000 assembly members were due to leave the province today and planned to reach Bangkok tonight..

    On Dec 25 last year, PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey, chair of a government panel looking into the problems involving the dam, phad romised to seek cabinet approval for the permanent opening of the dam’s sluice gates.

    The minister set up a sub-committee to consider the issue and compensation payments for affected residents.

    To date, the sub-committee had never even called a meeting to consider the problems, said Mr Thongpon.

    Completed in 1994, the dam was constructed by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand with support from the World Bank at a total cost of US$240 million (7.24 billion baht).

    The dam caused 117 square kilometres of land to be flooded and displaced around 3,000 families. It also interrupted fish migration, affecting catches of families who depend on the river.

    bangkokpost.com

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    Thailand produces 130% of its daily electrical needs, how can it be justified keeping this dam in operation?

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    The anti-Pak Moon Dam villagers were like the red-shirt protesters in their defiance and rejection of the elite ruling class, which they believe has ripped off their natural resources and political rights, retired professor Nidhi Eawsriwong told a seminar on Friday.

    Bangkok Post : Pak Moon villagers likened to red shirts


    defiance and rejection of the elite ruling class

    .....

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    The cabinet has postponed a decision for another 45 days on whether to open all the Pak Moon dam's sluice gates for five years, as demanded by the Assembly of the Poor -- so yet another study can be made of the pros and cons.

    Bangkok Post : Cabinet again stalls Pak Moon decision

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