Myanmar: Myitsone dam project faces widespread opposition due to displacement & environment concerns

In 2011, the construction of the Myitsone dam was suspended by then-president U Thein Sein. Recently, talks about a possible reinstatement of the the project have surfaced. 

Protests have erupted and opposition against the project continue to grow. This Story contains links to reports on developments of this issue.

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10 February 2019

Myanmar: Possible resumption of Myitsone dam project sparks widespread protests

Author: Chan Thar, Myanmar Times

"Thousands protest against Myitsone dam in Kachin," 08 February 2019

Thousands of call for a complete halt to the China-financed work on the Myitsone dam on the Ayeyarwady River.

Over 7000 Kachin people...denounce attempts by China and others to restart the project, which has been mothballed since 2011 when strong opposition from residents forced its cancellation.

The protesters said that 90 percent of the electricity that will be produced by the dam will be exported to China and will not benefit the country.

“We are protesting against the project not because we hate Chinese people. We don’t hate the Chinese. We are doing this only because we don’t want this project,” said Daw Lura, a local resident who was displaced by the project.

Police arrested one of the protest leaders, Daw Ja Gaung, who had secured the demonstration permit, for failing to follow the terms of the permit. Police charged Daw Ja Gaung with violating the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.

Myint Moe, chief of No. 1 police station in Myitkyina, said that among the violations by the protesters was their use of a loudspeaker and headbands printed with “No to Myitsone dam.”

U Aung Hkam, chairman of the Kachin Democratic Party, urged the government to take decisive action and stand with the people in opposing the dam. 

The dam project was signed with China under the administration of president U Thein Sein. Its construction began in 2009, but it was suspended in September 2011 after widespread public protests.


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10 February 2019

Myanmar: Protesters call for clarity on status of Myitsone dam project amidst reports of its resurrection

Author: Myanmar Times

"Myitsone's potential resurrection," 08 February 2019

Construction of the US$3.6 billion dam, backed by Beijing's China Power Investments Corporation, known as State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC), was 2011. Since then, the public has no idea what...Daw Aung San Suu Kyi intends to do with the project, because Myitsone commission never released the final report...

But delay no longer seems like a viable option. On January 30, an opinion piece printed by China’s Global Times warned that Nay Pyi Taw’s decision on Myitsone will “determine Myanmar’s investment environment, the government’s credibility and the long-term development of northern Myanmar.”

This is the latest gesture from Beijing, which appears to be scaling up the pressure on resuming the project. Recently, Chinese Ambassador Hong Liang...lobbied local political parties and religious groups to support the project... The Chinese Embassy in Yangon doubled down by issuing a statement claiming that Myitsone has the support of the Kachin community, a declaration that was promptly rebuffed by Kachin ethnic and religious leaders. 

But the NLD government has not provided any clarity on the issue. The only intervention from a top official came from U Thaung Tun, the investment and foreign economic relations minister, who suggested alternatives such as downsizing or relocating the project.


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26 January 2019

Myanmar: Displaced villagers urge Govt. to stop Chinese-funded Myitsone hydropower project

Author: John Grafilo, Myanmar Times

"Displaced villagers urge permanent halt to Myitsone hydropower project", 25 January 2019

Villagers displaced by the start of construction on the Chinese-funded Myitsone dam in Kachin State...urged the government to cancel the project, which was halted in 2011 after widespread protests.

"To permanently stop the Myitsone dam project and to be able to return to our original homes is the intention of the residents," the group of residents, calling themselves Mungchying Rawt Jat, said in a statement.

"The government is responsible for cancelling the project, which is worthless to locals, and to compensate the displaced people."

...[S]everal non-governmental groups criticised a statement by the Chinese embassy in Myanmar that said ethnic Kachin people were not opposed to the resumption of the project.

U Tu Ja, chair of the Kachin State Democracy Party, said that they would only accept development projects offered by China that benefit the people.

...U Sar Chi, a leader of a Kachin civil society group, said China may be putting pressure on the Kachin people because it wants the project to resume....

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