Myanmar, Thailand Sign Hydropower Plant Agreement for Salween; Ethnic Minorities to be Flooded Out

From ENNMyanmar has signed an agreement with a Thai company to build a hydropower plant on Southeast Asia’s longest free-flowing river, the Salween, state-run media reported Tuesday… Opponents of Myanmar’s ruling junta say the dam construction will likely involve forced labor. When the dams are built and surrounding land flooded, it could also lead to ethnic minority groups — who have long been suppressed by central government — being driven from their villages.

When we were trekking in northern Thailand, our guide told us about a dam project that was being finalized in the area. If this is the same project then this dam on the Salween river could flood out most of the area where we did our trek; an area that includes large tracks of road-less pristine jungle and many Karen hill tribe villages on both sides of the boarder, that were not consulted, and will not be compensated. These villages are several hours away by foot to the nearest road, and several more hours by truck (the road is very bad and frequently un-drivable) to the nearest city.

How are people that live so disconnected to the decision makers able to stand up for themselves when governments don’t seem to care? What do they have to do so that governments give them the attention they deserve, and consult with them on issues that will have such profound impacts on their lives.

I cannot believe that all the wonderful people I met during my trek, are going to be flooded out of their homes and be forced to relocate, likely into ‘civilized’ modern villages. Many of these people (especially in Thailand) have resisted the temptation to move to a village with road access and electricity, so as to keep their traditional way of living alive, if they are forced out of their villages and into modern villages many of their traditions will be lost within a few generations.

The only thing we can do is ensure enough people know about these atrocities, and hope that enough noise is made so that future plans will be forced to take into consideration these seemingly unimportant people.

UPDATE: has more info on the proposed dam project on the Salween river.

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