In 1993, the Rasi Salai Irrigation dam began to operate on the Mun River, a tributary of the Mekong River, in a remote and impoverished corner of Northeast Thailand. The reservoir flooded the second most important wetland area in the country, and is part of the five decades-long, massive Green Isan Project, created to reduce irrigation issues in the drought-stricken area. As a consequence, thousands of households lost their land, livelihoods, culture and identity. The disruption triggered a rural exodus and local conflict which continues to this day: thirty years on, village heads, activists and NGOs still fight for compensation for the loss of people’s primary food source, while trying to help the local population find alternative sources of income.
This protest movement was inspired and supported by the communities impacted by and resisting the Pak Mun hydro-power dam, built around the same time at the confluence of the Mun and the Mekong on the Laos border. In the mid-1990’s, the Assembly of the Poor, an umbrella-organisation of numerous communities affected by infrastructure projects and land rights issues, emerged to organise people to fight for participation in the process of decision-making which affects their lives.
Yet three decades on, the community of Rasi Salai in Si Saket Province continues to demand the remaining compensation for loss of land and income whilst struggling to adapt to an environment that has irreversibly changed.
This documentary includes images taken by local photographers and community members during the 1990's. These negatives, kept at the centre of The Wetland People Association close to dam itself were scanned and preserved with the assistance of a Earth Journalism Network Special Grant.