Myanmar Pushes Back on Beijing-backed Dam That Could Displace Thousands of Kachin

01/29/2019 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – There have been heated debates inside Myanmar on whether or not to resume the controversial China-backed Myitsone dam project in Kachin state. The dam would be the first to block the Irrawaddy River, flooding an area roughly the size of Houston and displacing thousands of people.

Myanmar’s former President U Thein Sein halted the dam work on Myitsone in 2011 after state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPIC) had begun work, due to strong opposition from local Kachins, an ethnic group that is mostly Christians and have long suffered instability due to ongoing fighting with the Burmese army.

On January 13, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar falsely claimed that civil society organizations in Kachin state supported the planned hydropower project, which would be one of the largest hydropower plants in the world, with 90 per cent of the power earmarked for China.

Reverend Hkalam Samson, General Secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) refuted the embassy’s claim. He told Frontier Myanmar the KBC and other groups had told the Chinese ambassador that local people opposed the project, which was suspended in 2011, and that they would not change their minds.

“We and the Kachin people will continue to object to the dam. We will never accept the resumption of this project,” he said.

Financial Times reports that on Tuesday, Myanmar’s government stated it had no plans to resume work on a Chinese-backed hydropower dam, despite intensifying pressure to do so from Beijing.

Minister of investment and foreign relations, U Thaung Tun, said that while Myanmar considered relations with its powerful neighbor “important” and was working to seek out an alternative power project, the Myitsone dam would have “enormous impact on the environment and on the people and villages in the area”.

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