| BANGKOK, June 24
BANGKOK, June 24 A Thai court accepted a lawsuit
against state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand
(EGAT) and four other state bodies on Tuesday for agreeing to
buy electricity from a $3.5 billion hydropower dam being built
in neighbouring Laos.
The Xayaburi dam, which will be the first on the main stream
of the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, is at the heart of
landlocked Laos's ambitions to supply power to the region, with
Thailand set to buy around 95 percent of the electricity
Activists say the project threatens the livelihood of tens
of millions who depend on the river's resources.
Villagers from Thai provinces near the Mekong petitioned the
Administrative Court in 2012 to suspend a power purchasing
agreement signed by EGAT and Laos's Xayaburi Power Company
Limited but the court ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the
That decision was reversed on Tuesday when the Supreme
Administrative Court sided with villagers, who are demanding
full environmental and health impact assessments.
Shares in Thai builder CH Karnchang, the main
contractor for the controversial dam, were down 3.1 percent at
0810 GMT after the decision.
"The villagers are hoping that with this case the court will
suspend the power purchase agreement and in the meantime carry
out a transboundary impact assessment and further
consultations," Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia programme director
for the International Rivers group, told Reuters.
"Ultimately, if the court finds the purchase agreement was
approved illegally, it could cancel the agreement altogether."
In 2011, member states that make up the Mekong River
Commission overseeing the river's development, agreed to conduct
further environmental impact assessments before construction
proceeded. Laos went ahead with a groundbreaking ceremony in
November 2012, signalling the formal start of construction.
Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia share the lower
stretches of the 4,000 km (2,500 mile) Mekong. Vietnam and
Cambodia have urged Laos to halt the dam's construction pending
(Editing by Alan Raybould and Matt Driskill)