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Rasi Salai Dam, Thailand


Rasi Salai Dam, located in the Northeast region of Thailand on the Mun River, is part of the Khong-Chi-Mun Project (KCM) scheme, a large-scale irrigation scheme planned for Northeast Thailand (also known as the Isaan region) by the Thai government. The project was commissioned in 1989, construction began in 1992, and was completed in 1994 as a 17-meter high concrete dam with a large reservoir. Original plans were for the dam to provide irrigation to approximately 5,500 hectares; however, the second estimate suggested that only 1,600 ha of land would be irrigated. Unfortunately, the canals were never completed thus rendering the dam useless. The dam was originally estimated to cost US$4.32 million (140 million Baht), but actual costs were far over budget costing US$26.7 million (871 million Baht – nearly six times the planned amount).

Many controversies have surrounded the Rasi Salai dam. In 1989 when the government approved the dam for construction an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not prepared, despite national requirements to do so; nor was there village consultation. In 2000 the Department of Energy Development and Promotion (DEDP) agreed to carry out a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) that was completed in 2010. Also, as of 2010, the EIA had been started but was not yet completed. The inundated area was previously an area abundant with rich soils for rice cultivation and wetland forest that provided villagers with other livelihood opportunities. Affected people are still lacking fair compensation and losses have never been officially assessed or acknowledged. Compensation was paid in three separate rounds beginning in 1996 where 1,154 households out of over 3000 were compensated at a rate of 32,000 Baht per rai of land. Subsequent rounds of compensation vary in the amount of compensation provided and the number of households eligible. However, approximately half of the affected villagers have either received insufficient or no compensation. Over the course of the project, villagers were repeatedly excluded from the decision-making process and access to information was denied, especially in the final stages of construction. Besides the loss of approximately 15 fish species and river and wetland diversity, the Rasi Salai Reservoir sits on top of a large underground rock salt deposit. This has resulted in water seeping down to the underground salt domes and drawing salt back up into the reservoir thus increasing salinity and decreasing the productivity of irrigation as crops are exposed to salted water. (1) (3) (4) (8) (9) (10) (12) (13) (14)

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Rasi Salai Dam, Thailand
State or province:Si Sa Ket Province
Location of conflict:Rasi Salai District
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Aquaculture and fisheries
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Irrigation capacity of 1,600 ha (but was not realized)

Project area:10,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectUSD$ 26,300,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:15,000-17,000
Start of the conflict:01/07/1997
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environment, Technology and Science , RID (Royal Irrigation Department), DEDP (Department of Energy Development and Promotion)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Rivers, AoP (Assembly of the Poor), TFCG (Tam Forest Conservation Group)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The dam is seen as an overall failure for many reasons. The required EIA for the project was not completed and the reservoir sits on top of a large underground salt dome, which results in water too salty for irrigation use. The salination of the reservoir meant the dam’s irrigation canals were never built and the second proposal that 1,600 ha would be irrigated was also not successfully completed. People have seen major losses in livelihoods, which have yet to be recognized officially. Prior to construction, no information of the projects design or impending impacts were released to the public (3) (12) (13) (14).

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

National Environment Quality Act (Thailand, 1992); Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2550, article 57, article 58, article 66, article 67, article 85, article 87 (Thailand, 2007); Official Information Act (Thailand, 1997); Ratification of Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, UNFCCC; Khong-Chi-Mun Project (KCM, Thailand); Ninth National Plan (Thailand, from 2002 to 2009); Power Development Plan (Thailand);

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

(4) Molle, Francois. 2005. Irrigation and water policies in the Mekong region: current discourses and practices. International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

(6) Sneddon, Chris. 2002. Water Conflicts and River Basins: The Contradictions of Comanagement and Scale in Northeast Thailand. Society & Natural Resources 15.725-41.

(3) Dulin, Allison; Franko, Cloe; Heun, Christi; Masterson, Spencer. (2008). “Voices from the Margin: Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in Northeast Thailand, Rasi Salai Dam”. ESCR Mobilization Report.

(5) South-East Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN Thailand), The Committee to Save Tam Mun (The Committee to Save the Fresh Water Swamp Forest in the Mun River), Assembly of the Poor, Wildlife Fund Thailand (20 April 1999) “Report on social impacts”

(7) Sneddon, C. 2003. Reconfiguring scale and power: the Khong-Chi-Mun project in northeast Thailand. Environment and Planning A 35.2229-50.

(8) Sretthachau, Chainarong; Nungern, Kittima and Olsson, Anna. (2000). “Social Impacts of the Rasi Salai Dam, Thailand: Loss of Livelihood Security and Social Conflict”. Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN). Submission for The World Commission on Dams Public Hearing, 26-27 February 2000.

(1) Coddington, Claire et al. (n.d.). “Rasi Salai Dam”. A Collaborative Community Consultation Report”.

(2) Committee of the Mun River Wetlands Conservation Network (CMRCN-Rasi) Peace and Human Rights Center of Northeast Thailand Peace and Human Rights Center of Northeast Thailand (2008) “Voices from the Margin - Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Northeast Thailand - Rasi Salai Dam”, ESCR Mobilization Project

(9) The World Commission on Dams Public Hearing (2000) “Social Impacts of the Rasi Salai Dam, Thailand: Loss of Livelihood Security and Social Conflict”, February 26-27; 2000, Large Dams and their Alternatives in East and Southeast Asia: Experiences and Lessons Learned Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN)

(12) Dulin, Allison; Franko, Cloe; Heun, Christi; Masterson, Spencer. (2008). “Voices from the margin”. International Rivers. 8 December 2008.


(13) Living Rivers Siam Association. (n.d.). “Rasi Salai Dam”.

(10) Blake, David J.H. (2013). “Thai Dam-Affected Villagers Demand Fair Compensation”. International Rivers. From World Rivers Review, June 2013.

(14) Living Rivers Siam Association. (1999). “Basic information about Rasi Salai dam”. Thai Baan Research, Publications, 20 April 1999.

Meta information

Contributor:Carl Middleton, Sarah Allen, Matilde Sgotto
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:185