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A new report published by AID/WATCH provides insight into some of
the social and environmental problems facing Thailand as it tries
to meet projected energy demand. 'Thailand's Energy Tentacles'
details the magnitude of the problems associated with the current
dominant energy model which not only affect Thai people but others
in the region, as Thailand looks to its neighbours to buy power.

Thailand has one of the world's fastest growing industrial
economies. The development of energy resources will be Thailand's
most expensive infrastructure undertaking over the next two

Australian aid, whether through bilateral projects or channelled
through the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, is too often
used to assist the exploitation of a country's natural resources
rather than directly address crucial social and environmental
issues. Many projects in the region are directly slated for
Thailand's energy consumption.

Yet critics are becoming increasingly vocal as numerous plans to
tap the Mekong river and its tributaries for hydropower are
unveiled. They believe that Thailand's rapacious pursuit of energy
production will not only cause environmental damage but adversely
impact millions of people who rely directly on rivers, forests and
agricultural lands for their survival.  Increasing problems with
human rights abuses are appearing as ethnic minorities are cleared
off their lands to make way for large-scale energy schemes.

Although there is ample evidence of large-scale dam failure, the
development institutions seem committed to build many more. Not
only have there been the resettlement and environmental problems
associated with dam construction, but the dams have not been able
to deliver projected hydropower generation or irrigated water
supply. Furthermore, since the 1970s, communities across Thailand
have been fighting to stop these projects.

'Thailand's Energy Tentacles' outlines the role Australia and the
multilateral development banks are playing in the development of
hydroelectric schemes in the region. It also contains case studies
of aid financed dams which are continuing to cause hardship for
local people.

The report also deals with the relationship between Australian aid
and the coal industry. One controversial Australian financed
project is the Mae Moh Lignite Mine in Thailand. The lignite feeds
Thailand's largest power plant complex. AusAID, the Australian
government's department of overseas development, states that the
mine project has been one of the most successful in the Thai
program. Yet people living near the mine and power plants have had
their lives severely affected. Apart from resettlement and
rehabilitation issues, deteriorating health standards in the area
are cause for alarm. People affected by the Mae Moh Mine and power
plants have been complaining bitterly about their health for many
years. The situation is so bad that production capacity is being
reduced by up to one third of overall capacity to drastically curb
emissions of sulphur dioxide to comply with new government recom
the major donor agencies are serious about contributing to
socially ergy model pursued throughout the world must radically
change.  The overall concept of aid and development must be turned
around to focus on the needs and wishes of disadvantaged
communities and the environment, rather than the emphasis which is
now on winning contracts in the Asian marketplace.


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