The comparatively small Nam Mang 3 dam, with an installed capacity of 40MW, caused an unprecedented protest by affected ethnic minorities, threatened to be displaced to make room for the reservoir. On November 22, 2002, some 40 villagers, armed with guns and sticks, marched to the construction site, urging contractors to stop the work and to inform villagers about the project, where they would be relocated and what kind of compensation they would receive . According to International Rivers , this was the first recorded villager-led protest against hydroelectric dams in Lao PDR, a sector experiencing enormous growth since the turn of the millennium ; much of it due to Thailand’s involvement as contracted importer of Lao produced hydroelectricity [3;4].
Based on a pre-feasibility study , construction of the dam began in late 2001, characterized by a lack of adequate impact assessments, non-transparent planning, finance and approval . Loans for the $63 million project were provided largely by Chinese Export-Import Bank (80%) and partly (20%) by Electricite du Laos (EdL) . Reports [1;4] estimated that around 2,745 people needed to be relocated from the catchment and reservoir area, while other 12,800 people upstream and downstream would be negatively affected through changing hydrological dynamics and related decline in fisheries. Located in the Phou Khao Khouy National Protected Area, the dam’s reservoir affects wildlife biodiversity, and additional transmission lines and access roads further fragment habitats, while providing entry points for illegal loggers . Apart from social and environmental impacts, also its economic viability was questioned, for which reason the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank urged to stop the project, raising concerns regarding Lao PDRs’ increasing debt burden . Nevertheless, construction was completed in 2004.
Since the beginning of project planning, affected villagers, mainly ethnic Hmong, were not informed about the construction, or about the social impact mitigation and compensation measures  and environmental Impact Assessments were completed only after construction was finished . The protesting villagers, demanding information and participation in impact mitigation, achieved to stop construction activities for a few days; however, they could not stop the project, driven by corporate and governmental interests, who responded by sending military units to the site to intimidate villagers . While this protest has marked an unprecedented event in people’s public engagement against hydropower projects in Lao PDR, it remains, so far, one of the few instances of public protest in a country where civil society is largely repressed.