June 15, 2011

Press release from Burma Rivers Network

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 http://www.burmariversnetwork.org

Stop damming in War-Zones on Burma’s Major Rivers:
A Briefer on Conflicts at Dam Sites in Burma by Burma Rivers Network

June 15, 2011


  • Hatgyi
    • After the November 7, 2010 election in Burma, conflict has greatly escalated along the entire border area, as many ceasefire groups have refused to come under the regime’s control as Border Guard Forces. Many units of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, headquartered adjacent to the Hatgyi dam site, are now actively fighting the regime’s troops, and together with the Karen National Union, now control large swathes of territory in the vicinity of the dam, and elsewhere in Karen State. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled since March this year, including hundreds from directly upstream of the dam site, due to shelling of villages, forced portering and other abuses against civilians.
    • In two separate incidents in 2006 and 2007, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) staffs were killed by grenade and landmine attacks at the dam site. EGAT’s own experience in the area illustrates the existence of violence and conflict despite their claims otherwise. By proceeding with the dam project and calling for greater security EGAT is colluding with the Burmese military regime and exacerbating conflict and abuses in the area.
  • Upper Salween Dams
    • On March 13, 2011, Burma’s military regime broke its 22-year-old ceasefire with the Shan State Army-North, and mobilized over 3,500 troops to launch a fierce attack in central Shan State, shelling civilian targets, committing gang-rape, and displacing thousands of civilians. The fighting has now spread across northern Shan State, to areas adjoining the two planned upper Salween dam sites.
  • Ta Sang Dam
    • May 9 2011, four Chinese engineers went missing at Ta Sang Dam Site while conducting a survey upstream of the dam site. The Burmese Military Regime sent 3 battalions to the area and to search for the Chinese Engineers. This has lead to human rights violations including forced portering.
  • Ywathit Dams
    • 27 December 2010, Karenni National Progressive Party troops attacked 20 government military trucks near Phruso Township, killing at least three persons including foreign technicians, according to the KNPP. No information was provided about the number of people injured in the attack. Speaking to The Irrawaddy Khu Oo Reh said, “We attacked the convoy because it brought the persons who can harm local people by building a dam. The convoy came from Loikaw, the capital of Karenni State, and was headed to the dam project in the Ywathit area of Bawlakhe Township, Karenni (Kayeh) State.”
    • June 2011, Burma Army deployed one battalion to take security for Chinese workers at Ywathit Dam.
  • Irrawaddy Dams
    • On April 17, 2010, a series of at least 10 separate bombs exploded at the Myitsone Dam construction site. The blasts were reported to have injured at least one Chinese worker and destroyed several temporary buildings and vehicles owned by Asia World.
    • Shortly after the explosions the Burmese regime arrested more than 70 local people. The Kachin Independence Organization denied any responsibility for the bombs and eventually most of the people jailed in an investigation were freed.
    • March 2011 Kachin Independence Organization writes to Chinese government warning that civil war could break out if construction of the Myitsone Dam proceeds.
  • Dapein Dams
    • Dapein Number 1 Dam has been shut down due to recent fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burma Army. Workers from China have fled back home. As the regime has tried to reinforce its troops to the conflict area, people in Bhamo, Waing Maw, and Myitkyina townships are forcibly recruited to carry weapons and ammunitions for the Burmese troops.

It is impossible to carry out effective community participation in dam projects under this conflict situation. Abuses associated with the fighting such as forced portering and destruction of farmlands directly impacts local communities. Foreign investors cannot follow dam building standards and risk damage to their reputation by contuing these projects.

Burma Rivers Network therefore strongly urges Chinese, Thai, Indian and European investors and involved companies to immediately halt dam plans in Burma.

Contact: burmariversnetwork@gmail.comhttp://www.burmariversnetwork.org


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