The People of Pak Mun Dam and Landless Peasants in Thailand Oppose the WB/IMF meeting

Every three years, the World Bank and IMF hold their annual meeting outside of Washington, DC (United States of America). In 2006, the annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF is being held in Singapore on 19-20 September. Approximately ten thousand people from 184 countries will attend this meeting, including global-level politicians, ministers of finance, heads of central banks, and journalists from around the world. At this meeting, members of the World Bank and IMF will be coming together to hold discussions on developing global economic strategy.

Construction began on the Pak Mun Dam in 1991 and was completed in 1994, with money borrowed from the World Bank. In spite of protests from villagers, academics, and both domestic and international environmentalists, construction of the dam at the mouth of the Mun River proceeded, bringing with it devastating effects on nature and at least 70 communities that live along the river. For more than several thousand years, these communities along the Mun River have been living with and relying on nature and the Khong-Mun ecological system for their existence. As a result, an abundance of aquatic animals and plant species have flourished, nourishing the lives of the people living along the river. When the mouth of the Mun River was blocked by the Pak Mun Dam, the river’s water level and flow were altered. The water current was forced into the production of electricity. A basin was created in the area above the dam, resulting in the flooding of areas along both sides of the river that were originally used for cultivation. The natural state of the rapids changed too, being submerged under water and stopped up with mud. The blocking of the water has made it impossible for fish to migrate in accordance with their lifecycle. All of these changes have destroyed the environment, the ecological system, the wealth of natural resources, food security, and have also resulted in the dissolution of families, society, culture, way of life, and villagers’ local wisdom. All that has been lost  in exchange for a mere 40 megawatts of electricity

In 1991, villagers who would be affected by the Pak Mun Dam campaigned in opposition to the approval of the World Bank loan. However, the World Bank did not listen to the information about the effects on nature and the communities, and went ahead with its loan to the Thai government, thereby facilitating completion of the dam in 1994.

In 1985, the World Bank provided a loan for a program to issue land title deeds in Thailand in accordance with the land market policy approach to land reform. The basic idea of the World Bank is to let the free market serve as the mechanism for allocating land, with the belief that land will be allocated and transferred into the hands of those who have the highest efficiency in production. According to this idea, the state’s role is merely to establish the market in which the private sector and farmers sell land, assess land values, and provide support in the form of loans to farmers through land funds so that they can pay for land in the market. In addition to not being successful, this program also had wide negative impacts, resulting in large amounts of land slipping out of the hands of small-scale farmers, and rural land prices being highly inflated very quickly. Especially in the period after 1987, there was massive speculation and buying up of land. As a result, the illegitimate issuing of fraudulent land deeds for public land, community land and private land became common. In addition, land ownership titles were transferred from farmers into the hands of speculators and land investors. These land investors and companies doing business in land then used this land with inflated valuation due to speculation, as collateral to get money to invest in real estate. When the economic crisis hit and the bubble burst, they were unable to repay their loans. Consequently, rural land in Thailand was left unoccupied, uncultivated, and unused, while the land documents remained stuck with the banks.

The World Bank has never accepted responsibility for its loan programs or financial assistance programs that adversely affect communities, the way of life of people in localities, natural resources, and the ecological system. The security of land and river resources that are important factors of production, and food security have been destroyed under the lofty sounding pretext of “economic development of Thai society and global society.”

The Assembly of the Poor, and villagers who have lost their land due to land reform programs of the World Bank, and farmers from both sides of the Mun River who have lost their land and source of income due to the Pak Mun Dam condemn the policies and actions of the World Bank. The World Bank has lost its legitimacy to determine policy for developing a global economic strategy. The annual meeting of the World Bank on 19-20 September 2006 in Singapore is therefore nothing more than a staged show at which dishonest financiers, bankers, and politicians put their heads together to seize natural resources and factors of production from small-scale farmers, the poor, and local communities around the world.

Stop the fake assistance!

Stop interference in the development policies of Thailand!

Thai farmers need genuine land reform!

We must take back our rights to land, rivers, seeds and food!