Anti-Myitsone Lawyers to Travel to China

By Yen Saning 2 July 2014

RANGOON — Burmese lawyers who have campaigned against a Chinese-backed dam project in northern Burma will travel to China next week to inspect Chinese projects there.

The Myanmar Lawyers Network, which has opposed not only the Myitsone dam project, but also the Chinese-backed Letpadaung copper mine, will travel to Beijing next Wednesday, according to the network’s joint secretary, Thein Than Oo.

The 10-day trip is part of an exchange between Burmese and Chinese lawyers, organized by the China-based Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) in collaboration with an American Quaker organization that provides training to Southeast Asian environmentalists.

As part of the exchange, Chinese lawyers from CLAPV visited Burma in May, studying the environmental impacts of four projects, including the Letpadaung mine in Sagaing Division and the Thilawa Special Economic Zone near Rangoon.

“The purpose of their visit was to study the impacts of Chinese investment abroad,” Thein Than Oo told The Irrawaddy.

The Burmese delegation to China will include four lawyers from the Myanmar Lawyers Network and three other lawyers who focus on land rights and environmental issues. They will visit the sites of state-backed investment projects in China, most likely including Wanbao project sites.

Wanbao is the Chinese company that is backing the Letpadaung mine in Burma, along with the Burmese government.

“We want to know if their projects [in China] are running in accordance with international laws, and whether they have complied with environmental standards,” Thein Than Oo said.

He said the Burmese delegation would also speak with the Chinese lawyers from CLAPV, to share concerns about the Myitsone and Letpadaung projects.

CLAPV has won more than 30 lawsuits against the Chinese government in favor of people who have been negatively affected by big investment projects.

The Myanmar Lawyers Network says it is preparing to file its own lawsuit against Wanbao and the Canadian company Ivanhoe Mines, which sold its shares in the Letpadaung project to Wanbao in 2010.