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Hatgyi Dam, Myanmar


The Hatgyi Dam project is one of five hydropower dams planned by the Joint Committee on Hydropower Development between the Governments of Thailand and Myanmar on the Salween River. Hatgyi is proposed to be the first dam constructed, located near Myaingyingu in Karen State, Myanmar. The project would be 50 km downstream of the Thai border, and the reservoir would stretch to the Thai border. Initial project plans in 1999 recommended the construction of a low height, 300 MW run-of-river dam. However, a new feasibility study published in November 2005 showed the project's capacity could be increased to 1,200 MW with 33m high dam. The project will affect mostly the Thai Karen ethnic group and the Shan ethnic group. In 2009, tension over the impending dam escalated into an attack on the Karen National Union (KNU) by the Myanmar Army and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) 17 km from the proposed dam site resulting in approximately 3,500 villagers being forced to flee across the Thai border [13]. This was the largest influx of refugees from Karen State into Thailand that decade . Increased militarization around the dam site has led to human rights abuses, which includes forced labour, illegal taxation and rape (13). Most villages along the Salween River rely on local border trade, fishing or agriculture for their livelihoods, which will be greatly impacted by the dam. The proposed dam site includes plans to inundate two official wildlife sanctuaries in the Karen State as well. The project threatens the river's freshwater ecosystem and increases the risk of natural disasters such as earthquakes as the site is within a major fault zone. Controversies over the dam include incomplete environmental impact assessments that claim many riparian communities will not be affected; however, the study is disputed as the assessment in Myanmar is incomplete and it did not consider the potential impacts on Thailand at all. Also, in December 2005, EGAT Plc signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Department of Hydroelectric Power, Myanmar for the Hatgyi Dam stating that all project information will be strictly confidential and not given out without proper written consent of all involved groups.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Hatgyi Dam, Myanmar
State or province:Karen State, on the Salween River (Thailand-Myanmar border)
Location of conflict:Nyaingyingu, Hat Gyi
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Plant installed potential: 1,200 MW

Project area:unknown
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,000 - 30,000
Start of the conflict:1991
Company names or state enterprises:Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand International Co. Ltd (EGAT) from Thailand
Sinohydro Corporation Limited (Sinohydro) from China
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Energy, Thailand, Ministry of Electric Power No. 2, Myanmar
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Thailands Human Rights Commission, Salween Watch,, Burma Rivers Network (BRN),, Karen Rivers Watch,, Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (Kesan),, International Rivers
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
International scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Threats to use arms
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths, Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Saw O Moo, the Karen land rights defender, was Killed on 5th April 2018 by Myanmar army soldiers in Mutraw district (Karen State)
Proposal and development of alternatives:EGAT should stop plans to construct Hatgyi Dam
The Thai government should survey all stateless people in Thailand as the Thai Constitution does not recognize stateless individuals who are not in possession of a Stateless Card. To rectify this, the Thai Government should sign onto international laws on stateless people.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There have been limited opportunities for substantive public participation throughout the project decision making process to date. Whilst the company has undertaken a sporadic and criticized CSR campaign [4], there are no outlined compensation plans for affected people.
The Hatgyi Dam was planned without local consultation or consideration and because of this, the potentially affected people are concerned they will not receive compensation or be able to exhibit their right to freedom of expression about the project. They are also faced with a lack of access to information, threats, and a lack of information provided in local languages.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Compensation Rights Under the Thai Constitution“ Section 67;

Cabinet Solution to Recover the Livelihood of Ethnic Karen

The Right to Campaign Under the Thai Constitution“ Section 63 and Section 66;

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights †“ Article 24;

Convention on the Rights of the Child“ Article 7;

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination“ Article 5;

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

McDonald, Kristen., Bosshard, Peter., & Brewer, Nicole (2009). Exporting dams: China's hydropower industry goes global. Journal of Environmental Management. S294-S302.

Permpongsacharoen, Witoon (2013). Myanmar Power Sector Development in the Regional Context. Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEE Net).

Hengsuwan, Paiboon (2013). Explosive border: Dwelling, fear and violence on the Thai-Burmese border along the Salween River. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, Vol. 54, No. 1, pp109-122. Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Nang, Shining (2011). Evaluating the Implementation of EGAT International's Corporate Social Responsibility Policy for the Hat Hyi Dam Project on the Salween River, Myanmar. MA Thesis, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.

TERRA (2006). Chronology of Salween dam plans (Thailand and Burma). Compiled by TERRA. Bangkok, Thailand.

Magee, Darrin & Shawn Kelley. 2009. Damming the Salween River. Contested Waterscapes in the Mekong Region. Hydropower, Livelihoods and Governance, ed. By F. Molle, T. Foran & M Kakonen. 115-40. London, Sterling, VA: Earthscan.

International Rivers (2012). Dam Cascades Threaten Biological and Cultural Diversity. The Salween River Basin Fact Sheet. 24 May 2012.
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Naing, Saw Yan (2013). Keeping their heads above water. Bangkok Post. Newspaper section: Spectrum. 11 August 2013.
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Salween Watch (n.d.). Recent Dam and Water Diversion Plans. Salween Watch Dam Sites.
[click to view]

Salween Watch (2013). Current Status of Dam Projects on Burma†™s Salween River. Salween Watch 13 March 2013
[click to view]

Nyar, Saw Khar Su. (2013). KNU protests as EGAT marks Salween River Hat Gyi dam site. Karen News. 20 May 2013.
[click to view]

International Rivers. (n.d.). Salween Dams. International Rivers, Campaigns.
[click to view]

[a] Jonathan Watts (2018). Indigenous environmental campaigner killed by Myanmar government. The Guardian.
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Naing, Saw Yan. (2013). On Salween River, Growing Signs that Work on Hat Gyi Dam Resumes. The Irrawaddy. 22 May 2013.
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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International Rivers Campaign

Living Rivers Siam

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Meta information
Contributor:Carl Middleton, Sarah Allen, Matilde Sgotta
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:181
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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