Chinese Dam Builder in Myanmar Cuts Food Aid to Protest-Backing Families

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A map showing the location of the Myitsone dam in Kachin state.
A map showing the location of the Myitsone dam in Kachin state.

China Power Investment Corporation [CPI], builder of the controversial Myitsone Dam in Myanmar’s Kachin State, has cut off food assistance to at least two families—among hundreds displaced by the project—after they backed protests against the dam.

The two families were from Aungmyinthar village, one of two villages residents were relocated to in 2010 and provided food aid in a bid to make way for the planned Myitsone Dam.

But CPI recently cut its supply of rice to the two families after they backed a protest march in March against any resumption of work on the dam, which had been shelved by President Thein Sein in 2011 following warnings that it was a threat to the environment.

Some 100 people had taken part in the 750-mile (1,200-kilometer) protest march from Yangon to the Myitsone Dam site in Kachin state.

“CPI suspended food aid to two families,” Layan, a resident of Aungmyinthar village, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“These two families welcomed and hosted protesters who marched from Yangon. It seems CPI doesn’t like their involvement with these people who are marching,” Layan said.

As part of the compensation, CPI provided about 60 condensed-milk-size cans of rice a month per relocated villager, which residents say are barely enough, sources said.

Secret referendum

In a secret referendum held in March, 1,086 of 1,160 villagers from Aungmyinthar said they were against the dam project, according to reports.

CPI has been lobbying the government for permission to restart the Myitsone dam project, which environmentalists say if implemented would submerge dozens of villages, displace more than 10,000 people, and destroy the area’s ecology.

Activists had launched the protest march to speak to the people about the impact of the project on the environment during stopovers in places such as Bagan, Mandalay, Magway, Shwebo, Moenyin, and Myitkyina, the riverside capital of Kachin state.

The trip concluded at the dam site in Tan Phae village—the confluence of the Maykha and Malikha rivers.

The dam project, which would provide most of its electricity to China, had before its suspension provoked massive public outcry over the widespread flooding and deforestation it would cause.

Relocated residents have complained that the compensation they’ve received is too low and the land they have been allocated is not suitable for planting crops and rearing livestock, hurting their livelihoods.

Reported by Kyaw Myo Min for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Di-Hoa Le.





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