NLD Urges China to Respect Local Laws, Concerns on Beijing Trip

By Nan Lwin 20 September 2018

YANGON — China must respect local concerns when implementing projects in Myanmar, the vice chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) told his hosts during a recent goodwill visit to Beijing, according to a press release from the party.

The release, issued today, said U Zaw Myint Maung also urged Beijing to respect Myanmar’s laws, create local jobs and to focus on peace when planning and carrying out projects in the country in a meeting on Monday with Song Tao, chief international liaison officer for the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The CPC invited U Zaw Myint Maung and other top NLD officials to Beijing for the nine-day visit starting Sept. 11 to strengthen relations between the two ruling parties.

The delegation included 18 NLD central committee members, including two chief ministers — from Mandalay and Magway regions — six central executive committee members, four auxiliary central executive committee members, two central economic committee members and one central information committee member. Five of the delegates have no additional senior party roles.

China is Myanmar’s largest investor, though many of its investments are controversial, perhaps none more so than the Myitsone hydropower dam in Kachin State, which was suspended in 2011 in the face of widespread public concern about the project’s potential social and environmental impacts.

The delegation also met with Huang Kunming, head of the CPC’s Propaganda Department and a member of the party’s politburo.

“Each side shared the party’s constitution and discipline,” NLD spokesman U Myo Nyunt, who joined the trip, told The Irrawaddy.

The CPC arranged for the delegates to visit the Three Gorges hydroelectric dam, the world’s largest power station with an installed capacity of 22,500 MW, which spans the Yangtze River.

Although the dam displaced 1.3 million people and caused significant ecological change including an increased risk of landslides, and remains controversial both at home and abroad, China considers it a social and economic success.

“Chinese official explained their challenges while they were constructing the dam, how they addressed the local objections,” U Myo Nyunt said.

Beijing and Naypyitaw recently signed a memorandum of understanding on the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build a network of roads, rail lines and shipping lanes linking China and Europe via at least 70 countries in Asia and the Middle East to foster trade and investment.

China and Myanmar also recently renegotiated the terms for the Kyaukphyu deep-water port in Rakhine State, which gives China access to the Indian Ocean and allows its oil imports to bypass the Strait of Malacca.

Meanwhile, the Chinese company behind the Myitsone dam has resumed lobbying residents and authorities in Kachin to support its plans to restart the project. Some locals and environmentalists are worried that the company may succeed in striking a new deal with Myanmar by year’s end.

CPC officials briefed the NLD delegation on China’s major investment projects and plans for Myanmar but did not mention the Myitsone dam.

“We didn’t comment on their ongoing projects or on the Myitsone dam. Our visit was to represent the party, not the government.” U Myo Nyunt said.

He added that the delegates were also briefed on China’s tax system and international relations and on its policies on rural development, agriculture and the environment.