Kachin Political Parties, Civil Society Oppose Myitsone Dam

‘This is the people’s desire. We won’t change our policy on the Myitsone hydropower dam,’ the Kachin Democratic Party chairperson said.

By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP (NMG)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Ethnic Kachin political parties and civil society organizations have said that they stand with the Kachin people against the Myitsone hydropower dam and want to see the project which is currently postponed fully abolished.

Three Kachin political parties Kachin State Democracy Party, Kachin Democratic Party, and Unity and Development Party of Kachin State—released a statement regarding the China-backed Myitsone dam on January 14. According to the statement, even though the hydropower project has been described as serving regional development, the local people have opposed it on the grounds that it will destroy the beauty of the Myitsone area the confluence of the Irrawaddy River a historically and culturally significant location for the Kachin people.

“This is the people’s desire. We won’t change our policy on the Myitsone hydropower dam. Construction of the Myitsone dam should never be allowed. It must be in line with people’s desire,” chairperson of the Kachin Democratic Party Gumgrawng Awng Hkam told NMG.

San Awng, a member of the Kachin State-based Peace Creation Group said that he also “stands with the people” on the issue of the dam, and said that he believes China is “looking for opportunities” to invest and is “putting pressure” on the Burmese government to resume the project.

The Myitsone dam has also been opposed because the area in which it would be built is a conflict zone.

“Whether there is a ceasefire or not, this Myitsone dam project must be stopped. […] This hydropower project has been postponed because there is no peace in the country,” San Awng said.

In late December, Chinese ambassador to Burma Hong Liang met Kachin political leaders in Myitkyina to discuss the future of the Myitsone project.

On January 13, the Chinese embassy released a statement that Gumgrawng Awng Hkam said strayed from the discussions that they had previously held.

“We discussed three points. First, they said if the Myitsone hydropower dam is not built, there will be no new investment. Second, the investors are so angry. Thirdly, they talked about the brotherly relationship between China and Burma,” he explained. “That’s why they said they have waited for seven years with patience [for the Myitsone project].”

Because of the opposition to the project, the Myitsone dam was suspended under Burma’s previous government led by Thein Sein. Information has recently spread that the unpopular dam could be resumed under the current National League for Democracy government. Kachin political parties, civil society organizations, activists, environmentalists, and communities continue to oppose the project.