Dozens in Myitkyina Township Protest Myitsone Dam Meeting
By Moe Myint 4 June 2016
MYITKYINA, Kachin State — Some 40 residents of Kachin State’s Myitkyina Township staged a protest on Saturday against a meeting between Chinese Ambassador Hong Liang, Chinese investor China Power Investment (CPI) and president of the Kachin State Democracy Party (KSDP) Tu Ja over attempts to renegotiate the Chinese-funded Myitsone dam.
The protest took place between 8 and 9am in front of the Palm Spring Resort in Myitkyina. According to Zaw Naing, a participant, ralliers based their decision to protest on information they received prior to the meeting that CPI representatives would arrive at the hotel in the morning and would afterward meet with the KSDP to discuss the dam project.
Wearing headbands that read “No Dam” and carrying banners that said “Stop killing the Irrawaddy” and “CPI, get out of Kachin State,” protesters stressed their dissatisfaction with attempts to renegotiate and demanded that plans for the project be completely withdrawn.
Zaw Naing speculated that Myitkyina residents would probably accept small hydropower plants along the Irrawaddy River, but that CPI’s project calls for very large plants to support a dam located along a fault line, which could create even larger problems in the event of a natural disaster. Geologists are also allegedly wary of the project, voicing criticism that it is likely to do good neither for environmental conservation nor for local villagers.
Tu Ja told The Irrawaddy after the meeting: “I urged them to do what residents wish. If they want to build the dam, they should do so elsewhere. But CPI said they will stick to the contract and that if Burma wants to terminate the project, it will have to pay a large amount of money as compensation.”
Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) general secretary Tsa Ji accused CPI of persistently trying to convince “uneducated” villagers to come around to the project by offering them food, accessories and other sorts of commodities.
According to local reports, Kachin State chief ministers said that they will listen to people’s demands and stand together with the will of Burma’s citizens, while adding that the decision is ultimately up to the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government.
Tsa Ji emphasized that the previous government suspended the controversial project and that the country’s new, people-elected government should do the same, saying that this would be an opportune time to “unveil detailed information about the [project’s] contract.”
The Myitsone dam project is jointly run by Burma and China. Construction began in 2009 but was suspended in September 2011 due to intense pressure from the public.
Saturday’s protest was disbanded by police. No violence was reported.