Thousands in Myanmar Protest to Demand Myitsone Dam Project be Scrapped

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Protesters fill the streets of Kachin state's Waingmaw township to demand the Myitsone dam project be canceled.
Protesters fill the streets of Kachin state's Waingmaw township to demand the Myitsone dam project be canceled.
Photo provided by Zin Linn

More than 8,000 residents of Waingmaw township in Myanmar’s Kachin state protested on Monday to call for a complete halt to the controversial Myitsone dam project, urging government action ahead of a visit to Beijing at the end of this month by national leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Construction of the Chinese-backed U.S. $3.6 billion hydropower project on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin state, begun in 2009, has stalled since 2011 because of concerns over potential flooding and other environmental impacts and anger that 90 percent of its electricity would be exported to China.

Suspension of the project has dismayed China, which has been pushing Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy government to allow the hydropower project to resume, arguing that Chinese companies have already invested heavily in it.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been tight lipped on the fate of the project, but said in mid-March that it is important for her government to uphold investment projects approved by previous administrations or risk being perceived by investors as unreliable. Others have raised concerns that Myanmar would have to pay large compensation to China if the project is scrapped.

Despite government assurances that it will act responsibly in making any final decision on whether to resume work on the dam, protesters living down river from the dam site on Monday demanded the project be brought to an immediate halt.

“We have been protesting like this for eight or nine years now,” a local resident named Lu Yar told a reporter from RFA’s Myanmar Service. “I wonder if the government can really continue to ignore this kind of opposition.”

“We’re now demanding that they stop this Myitsone project for good,” Lu Yar said.

Protests will continue

Protests and other forms of opposition will continue until the project is finally shut down, protester and township resident Daung Kun said, pointing to widespread fears of catastrophic flooding in Kachin if the dam is built and fails.

“People say that the Myitsone project will provide electricity, but we think it will be more like a time bomb that could someday kill and wipe out people in Kachin state without a shot being fired,” he said.

In mid-February, some 10,000 people in Kachin—activists, political party leaders, Buddhist monks, civil society groups, and other local residents—staged a massive protest in state capital Mitkyina demanding that the project be finally closed.

In recent weeks, in the run-up to Aung San Suu Kyi’s expected visit to Beijing to attend China’s Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, groups of economists, experts, and religious leaders have gone public with their opposition to the dam.

Developing countries like Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia must rely on foreign investors to develop hydropower sites, but laws and regulations governing hydropower projects tend to be weak in these countries, where attracting investment is a main task of their governments, experts say.

Reported by Elizabeth Jangma for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Nandar Chann. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Comments (1)

Sai Lin Kan

If Chinese Government has a long term plan to stay in Burma and investing in Burma and then the Chinese Government must give-up Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam Project because it’s toxic project for the relationship between the Chinese Government and the Burmese peoples. Also, the Chinese Government must think about the Burmese-Chinese peoples in Burma. Anti-Chinese Government movement in Burma will affect their lives in Burma.

The Chinese Government must study about the history of the Irrawaddy River closely. The Irrawaddy River is very important for the country and the Burmese peoples. The Irrawaddy River was one of the most sacred and important rivers to all Burmese ethnics in Burma history like Hindus’ sacred Ganges River in India.

I believed the contract between former Gen Than Shwe regime and the Chinese Government must have involved bribery.
How unfair distribution of electricity from the Myitsone Dam Project (China 90% and Burma 10%) contract was signed without question by the Than Shwe regime?

Than Shwe regime was the most corrupted Government in Burma history.
Without bribery, the Myitsone Dam Project China 90% and Burma10% won’t happen in the first place. Than Shwe was not dumb, but he wills sale everything the country have if he has benefited from that. There must be corrupted in this contract.
If the Government found the corruption in Myitsone Dam Project contract and then the contract must be declared as illegal and cannot be honored the contract.

However, Burmese Government has to silence even if there was bribery involved when the contract was signed between China and Burma because Burma was heavily relying on China and Russia in the UN Security Council. Burma was unfairly treated by the UN and the UN OHCHR. The Chinese Government was big brother to the Burmese Government. The Chinese Government protects the Burma from the UN, the UN OHCHR and other pro-Islam organization.

Myitsone Dam Project is very complicated and need to sort out smoothly and accepted by both China and Burmese peoples. If the Chinese Government didn’t back –off and want to go ahead regardless and then the contract should be amended to 50% - 50% distribution instead of 90% - 10%.

Apr 24, 2019 02:14 PM





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