Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEE Net)
Tucked away down a quiet soi in Bangkok’s Huai Khwang neighborhood is a four-story building housing the office of the Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEE Net). Inside the workplace, staff are busy researching and grappling with energy and electricity issues that span the entire Mekong region.
Mekong Energy and Ecology Network is the only local non-governmental organization (NGO) engaged with energy policy research from a regional standpoint and the coordination of a network of grassroots organizations within all six Mekong countries.
There is a very real need for this kind of aggregated perspective, given the growing regional integration via the ADB’s GMS project and the ushering in of the AEC within the next few years. Add to this Chinese President Xi’s recent proposal for the creation of an ASEAN development bank and the new influx of funding towards electricity infrastructure for Myanmar (with the World Bank’s recent approval of a $140 million loan and ADB’s involvement in creating a 20-year energy plan for the country as well as other energy projects), and it’s clear that a critical juncture has been reached.
409 Soi Rohitsuk (Ratchadapisek 14)
Pracharatbumpen, Haui Khwang
Bangkok 10320, Thailand
Tel: +66 2691 0718
Mission and Objectives
Within this context, MEE Net’s approach is decidedly broad, long-term and strategic. Recognizing the transboundary nature of energy issues, MEE Net has embraced a region-wide perspective, backed by its “energy network.” After all, just as ecosystems and geographies do not conform to state borders, neither do the environmental impacts of electricity projects – particularly large, capital-intensive infrastructure projects.
MEE Net’s current focus revolves around three related and cross-cutting regional themes:
- Know Your Power
- Transboundary Issues
- Flow of capital
Additionally, the organization maintains an emphasis on examining upstream policy decisions, at the level where long-term strategies are created by policy-makers. What are the driving forces behind the push for current energy projects? What are the decision-making processes? Do alternatives exist? These are key questions to ask.
Areas of Work
MEE Net’s work spans areas including policy analysis and research, advocacy, capacity-building activities, networking, and the organization of international conferences and training workshops.
To date, MEE Net is particularly active in Myanmar, notably in its ongoing facilitation of the Irrawaddy Community SEA project. Dedicated to the promotion of the participatory governance of the Irrawaddy River basin and the empowerment of local communities, the project expects to generate data about the river ecosystems and livelihoods based on local knowledge.
At the same time, MEE Net is engaged in region-oriented research about the flow of capital, as well as the impact of Chinese investments and projects throughout the Mekong. Continuous monitoring of the Mekong’s developments means that the organization holds both a cohesive picture of the region, as well as an understanding of country-specific contexts and constraints.
MEE Net is led by Director Witoon Permpongsacharoen, an expert in the electricity of the region and a former member of Thailand’s National Economic and Social Advisory Council. In 2006, The Nation named him as one of the 35 most influential Thais for his environmental work. He was also named an Ashoka Fellow in 1990.
MEE Net’s roots can be traced to the 1980s, when Thai environmentalists created the Project for Ecological Recovery (PER) in response to the country’s rapid industrialization. PER’s activities ultimately led to two seminal environmental victories: the cancellation of the Nam Choan hydroelectric dam project in 1988 and the creation of the national logging ban in Thailand in 1989.
MEE Net’s sister organization, Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA), was founded in 1991 to pursue a regional approach to environmental issues. And in 2008, MEE Net was established under the Foundation for Ecological Recovery (FER) to mount a response to the immense unexamined impact of energy issues on the Mekong region.