Damning Link between a Bangkok Mall and Injustice in Laos

Six years ago, Central Embassy, Bangkok’s newest shopping mall, celebrated its opening with aplomb, attracting several thousand local celebrities to a glitzy affair. This luxurious and futuristic-looking mall was described by Travel & Leisure as a “monster of a shopping complex”. During the same month, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned that the construction of the Don Sahong Dam in southern Laos would endanger the survival of freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins and called for a suspension of the project.

These two events, occurring 870km apart and in different countries, might appear to be unrelated at first glance. However, our article shows that they are linked because they form part of the complex web that is Bangkok’s electricity consumption. 

To partially sate Thailand’s ever-increasing thirst for energy, Thai companies and state-owned enterprises collaborate with the Lao government to build more hydropower dams in Laos and import the electricity into Thailand. Much of this electricity is used in Bangkok. Middle-class and upper-class residents of the Thai capital enjoy cheap (and the ever-increasing consumption of) power while company executives and major shareholders of Thai companies in the energy, real estate, construction and finance sectors reap large profits – as do Lao government leaders. Simultaneously, local rural communities and wildlife in Laos bear the brunt of the environmental and social damage caused by these dams. Some communities are forced to resettle and are often worse off afterwards.

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Marks, D., & Zhang, J.