June 15, 2011
Hydropower Dams Fuelling Conflict in Burma
Recent fighting near the Dapein and Shweli hydropower dams in northern
Burma shows how the buildup of Burma Army troops to secure deeply
unpopular Chinese dam projects is fuelling conflict.
Fighting broke out between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence
Organization (KIO) last week at the Dapein No. 1 and 2 dams, which are
being constructed by China's state-owned Datang Company, breaking a
17-year ceasefire. Scores of people have died and 2,000 refugees have
fled to the China border. Burma Army had brought in hundreds of troops
to secure the Dapein dams located near strategic KIO military bases.
Fighting has now spread and clashes broke out yesterday near the Shweli
1 Dam in northern Shan State.
In Kachin State alone, nine giant dams are being planned or constructed
by Chinese companies, including Myitsone, the first dam on Burma's
lifeline, the Irrawaddy River. The fighting at the Dapein dams follows a
recent public warning letter by the Kachin Independence Organization to
China's government that civil war may break out if construction of the
Myitsone Dam proceeds. Repeated appeals from various sectors of society
to halt the Myitsone Dam have been ignored.
Mega dams in Burma have severe negative social, economic and
environmental impacts while the majority of electricity generated is
exported to neighboring countries or used by the military. Most of the
dams are located in ethnic states and allow the expansion of Burma Army
control into these areas.
Last week Light Infantry Battalion 423 of the Burma Army was brought in
to secure the Ywathit Dam site in Karenni State where a series of dams
are also planned by China's Datang on the Salween River and its
tributaries. The Karenni armed resistance is active near the site and in
December 2010 attacked a convoy of trucks transporting equipment to the dam.
In war torn Shan State, offensives against the Shan State Army-North
near the Nong Pha Dam Site on the Salween River have caused thousands of
people to flee their homes over the last three months. Last month, four
Chinese dam technicians disappeared from the Tasang Dam site on the
Salween. The Burma Army brought three battalions to the area to search
for the technicians and provide additional security.
"The root causes of social conflict in Burma have not been addressed and
despite the formation of a new government, the country is still under
the mismanagement of a military regime" said Sai Sai, coordinator of the
Burma Rivers Network. "These mega dams are fuelling further conflict,
not benefitting the people of Burma."
Contact: Sai Sai (+66) 884154386, Ah Nan (+66) 848854154 For information
about dams in Burma, please see www.burmariversnetwork.org
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