Among Thailand’s neighbours, Laos is the country with which Thai people feel the strongest affinity. Not only do we share a common border, but we also share a common language and culture.
So it is safe to say that whatever Laos does to improve the well-being of its country and people, most Thais will cheer and wish them luck.
I am one of those who wish nothing but the best for Laos and its people. But now I’m looking on with trepidation as the country prepares to become “the battery of Southeast Asia”.
The Lao National Assembly, in session until Dec 20, is expected to formally approve the controversial Xayaburi hydropower dam project. Construction has already started after crews broke ground last month.
Laos already has six dams in operation, with another 12 projects on the horizon and dozens more in early planning stages. The Lao government has decided to forge ahead with the Xayaburi project despite an earlier pledge to the remaining members of the Mekong River Commission _ Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand _ to suspend the plan for 10 years pending further environmental impact studies.
The decision is regrettable. There are many lessons of development gone wrong in the region _ most notably in Thailand _ that Laos could learn from.
But Laos would rather see with one eye closed, looking only at the bright side of development that comes with rising GDP, while ignoring the dark side that comes with decreasing GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness).