Section 44 on the table to push construction of controversial dam

The Thai Agricultural Minister has said that he might ask the junta leader to enact absolute power under Section 44 of the Interim Charter to build a controversial dam in a national park area, saying tigers have legs to run away from the water.

Gen Chatchai Sarikulya, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, told media after a trip to the Bhumibol Dam in the northern province of Tak on Friday, 2 September 2016, that the water level in the dam is at a critical 8 per cent of its full capacity, Posttoday reported.

He added, however, that the present water level in the dam is better than in 2015 when the water level was only at 2 per cent.

In order to fill more water in four major dams in the region, the minister said that from September to October the Department of Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation will increase the frequency of cloud seeding in Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Tak and Nakhon Sawan.

The Agricultural Minister then told media that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, assigned him to make a 12 year water resource plan. The plan will include the constructions of new reservoirs and dams, such as the Mae Wong Dam.

The Mae Wong Dam is a controversial embankment project on the Sakae Krang River in the central province of Nakhon Sawan, designed to control monsoon flooding in central Thailand. The 13 billion baht (about US$400 million) project has encountered strong resistance since it was proposed in 2012 because the dam will flood approximately 5,100 acres of Mae Wong National Park.

“[I] will see what Section 44 [of the Interim Constitution] can do to proceed the discussion with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment because the land where the [Mae Wong] Dam will be built is in the national park area,” said Gen Chatchai

In response to the statement, Sasin Chalermlarp, a well known anti-dam activist, posted a message on his Facebook account that read, “I am ready, Mr. Chatchai, how can we talk this through, over a discussion table why I oppose [it] or on the street”.

On Saturday, 3 September 2016, a civil society group called ‘Network for People Along Northern Rivers’, issued a statement against the plan to use Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to build Mae Wong Dam, the Transborder News reported.

The group stated that the dam will be detrimental to the environment and wildlife in Mae Wong National Park. They added that it has been already proven that despite Thap Salao Dam in Uthai Thani, and the Khlong Pho Dam in Nakhon Sawan, drought still occurred in these regions. Therefore, constructing a bigger dam will not be an effective solution for drought.

“The Network for People Along Northern Rivers, which has been following the water management plan closely, believes that Section 44 [of the Interim Constitution] should not be used to pushed the construction of Mae Wong Dam and other projects related to environment nationwide because it might be detrimental to the natural resources and environment,” the group statement concludes.