US asks Laos to postpone Mekong dam project
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has been pushing the Lao prime minister to undertake more studies on the controversial Xayaburi hydropower project.
In the first visit of a US secretary of state in over half a decade to Laos, Clinton pushed prime minister Thongsing Thammavong on the issue.
As reported on CleanBiz Asia, there have been allegations that companies involved in the USD3.6 billion project have continued working in spite of promised moratoriums. The prime minister assured Clinton that it would not proceed without approval from neighboring countries and that a planned international conference about the project would be held in Laos, according to reports in the Bangkok Post.
Clinton's leverage on Laos is severely compromised as close to top of their diplomatic agenda was the issue of unexploded US ordnance left over from the Vietnam War. Figures estimate that one third of the country's land remains unusable because of it.
While talks also included Laos's entry to the World Trade Organisation and the reintegration of ethnic minority Hmong people who fled to Thailand in 2009, other environmental issues were said to be discussed.
While the authorities have admitted that building access roads and other infrastructure around the dam site continues, the prime minister said construction on the river itself will not start "in the absence of the sign-off from our neighbors."