Lao, Thai Villagers Urged to Seek Compensation


2004.03.19
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BANGKOK — ; Villagers along the Mekong River in Thailand and Laos are being urged to seek Chinese compensation for damage to the environment caused by Chinese reef blasting, RFA's Lao service reports.

A panel of non-governmental experts and environmentalists, convened by the Thai Journalists Association in Bangkok on the drought crisis along the lower Mekong River, agreed that Chinese reef blasting appears to be wreaking environmental havoc.

They urged villagers to collect data and document the environmental impact to support their case.

Attending the forum were the Thai environmental group Southeast Asia Rivers Network, the World Wide Fund For Nature (Thailand), representatives from the Chiang Khong district of Chiangrai in Thailand, officials from the Thai Water Resources Department, and other environmentalists.

In 1992, China proposed a plan to expand trade and economically boost its impoverished southern Yunnan Province. It set out to make the Mekong River-known in China as the Lancang River-capable of handling 300- to 500-ton boats, two to three times its previous capacity.

China has since brought in explosives and other equipment that blast the rocky reefs and shoals to open trade routes wider and deeper to accommodate the larger commercial vessels. Environmental experts say the blasting erodes riverbanks and harm the marine ecology. Populations of fish the use the reefs as breeding grounds have also dropped.

China, Burma, Thailand, and Laos signed the Mekong Free Navigation Agreement in 2000, allowing signatories to navigate the ports and waters through the other countries.

So far, only Thailand has spoken up about harm that it says Chinese reef blasting is causing to the other Mekong countries downstream.

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