Lao dam burst lessons for Thai firms
While the world reacted with shock at the recent dam collapse in Laos, attention was mainly focused on the victims and the patchy response of the Lao government. More than a month later, serious questions arise concerning the role and responsibilities of international companies involved in the fatal project, including those from Thailand.
On July 23, the failure of Saddle Dam D, part of a 410-megawatt hydropower project built by the Lao firm Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy Power Co, Ltd (PNPC) in Attapeu province, southern Laos, caused flash flooding in thirteen downstream villages, with at least 39 people killed, 97 officially reported missing, more than 1,100 people still unaccounted for and thousands left homeless.
It is thought that government censorship and recent actions to block "unauthorised" access to affected areas, has helped cover up the true extent of the deaths and destruction, which ranks among the smaller among the estimated 72 new dams being built under the Lao Hydropower Development Plan, mainly designed to export electricity to neighbouring countries such as Thailand.