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23-29 January: The Movement to Stop the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam

January 29, 2010

Dear Friends and Supporters,

In the last couple of weeks, protests against the Myitsone dam project on the Irrawaddy river in northern Kachin state – Burma’s largest river and most important commercial waterway – have been gaining momentum. On 18 January, the Myitkyina Zonal Kachin Baptist Church, with 59 sub-divisional churches and 100,000 followers, held a 24-hour prayer service against the Myitsone dam project. The following day, ethnic Kachins in London sent a letter to the Chinese Ambassador calling for the dam project to be halted. On 28 January, Kachin residents of Singapore delivered a similar letter signed by 110 Kachins living in the city-state to the Chinese Embassy. A day of action will be held on 5 February, the 49th Kachin Revolution Day, with protests already planned around the world.

Open opposition to the project surfaced in October 2009 as dam construction began and communities started to be forcibly relocated. People in the area directly confronted leading military personnel and held mass prayers, while a community network wrote directly to the Chinese dam builders.

Since 2005, Burma’s military junta and two Chinese corporations have been preparing plans to build the 3,600 megawatt Myitsone dam on the Irrawaddy river, a project that will generate USD 500 million per year for the junta. If built, the Myitsone dam would create a reservoir the size of New York City and displace around 60 villages and more than 10,000 people. The dam will also submerge historical churches, temples, and cultural heritage sites that are central to Kachin identity and history. Read more.

A number of local civil society groups have made it clear that they do not want development banks or international financial institutions (IFIs) in Burma at this time. Engagement with the junta means providing the military regime with income that ensures their oppressive rule will continue. Under the current climate, there is also no opportunity for the people in affected communities to participate in the decision-making processes or to speak their minds truthfully in impact assessments around proposed development projects.

In a Financial Times piece this week, it was reported that the World Bank (WB) is considering providing technical assistance to Burma for the first time in 20 years. However, the WB has made it clear in a statement to the Financial Times that it has no intention of providing assistance to Burma under the current situation.

In Solidarity,

Burma Partnership Secretariat

News Highlights

Junta claims Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be released in November; Daw Suu’s response

Nyi Nyi Aung’s verdict postponed

Inside Burma

Students at Hlaw Kar Computer University in Rangoon posted statements on the walls of the university denouncing the university authorities’ unfair actions. Authorities have recently sealed off all corridors with steel fences leaving only one gate open, closed down the football field, and banned all regular social activities. Eyewitnesses assumed that these measures were taken in order to prevent student unrest in the lead up to the elections.

>> Click here for more (Burmese)

Monks in Burma have announced that they will boycott religious services for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s brother unless he backs away from a dispute regarding her Rangoon house, where she is being held under house arrest.

>> Click here for more

Democratic Voice of Burma Reporter Ngwe Soe Lin was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment by the Rangoon Court.

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Hla Myo Naung, an imprisoned leader of the 88 Generation Students group, outlined the group’s election policy in a letter from Mandalay Prison: amnesty for all of Burma’s political prisoners in the lead up to this year’s election and an inclusive political process.

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Villagers are being killed and houses being burnt to the ground in Karen state by the Burmese Army to occupy territory and to divert the attention of people opposing the proposed 2010 elections in Burma.

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On 27 January, Min Ein, secretary-general of the National Democratic Alliance Army, was assassinated at the armed group’s head quarters in Mongla, eastern Shan State.

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Regional

Karen villagers living in Tha Song Yang District in Tak Province, Thailand, are under pressure from Thai authorities to return to Burma.

>> Click here for more

International

The UN human rights special rapporteur for Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, will visit the country from 14-20 February.

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In response to SPDC Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo’s statement that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would be released in November, the US called the military regime to immediately release Daw Suu, calling it “unfortunate” that she would be released only after the junta’s elections.

>> Click here for more

France reiterated its call for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as “an essential condition for the credibility of the elections planned by the authorities this year.”

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Mrs. Dolma Gyari, the Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, urged Burma’s military junta to hold free and fair general elections in 2010.

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Tokyo-based Japanese News Agency together with Burma Media Association awarded imprisoned journalists Hla Hla Win and Win Maw, arrested for sending information and reports to DVB, as recipients of the 2010 Kenji Nagai Memorial Award. The award is named after a Japanese journalist killed during the 2007 monk-led protests in Burma.

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Action

On 26 January, Global Action for Burma called for the UN Security Council to declare the junta’s 2008 constitution as “null and void” in order to override junta’s sham 2008 constitution and planned sham 2010 elections.

>> Click here for more

Opinion

Than Shwe and the waiting game
By Aung Zaw
The Irrawaddy

Drug politics of Burma
By Zin Linn
Asian Tribune

Statements, Reports and Press Releases

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma): Information Release: Nyi Nyi Aung’s Verdict Postponed and Family Denied Visit

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma): Annual Report 2009

Democratic Voice of Burma: Press Release: Free DVB Journalists Campaign

Karen National Union: Statement: Bomb Blast in Kyaukkyi, Bago Division, and Blame against KNU

National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma: Report: Burma: Situation Update (November 2009 – January 2010)

National Democratic Front: Statement on the Assassination of Mongla Leader

Palaung Women’s Organization: Press Release: Opium cultivation surging under junta’s control in Burma (English)

Palaung Women’s Organization: Press Release: Opium cultivation surging under junta’s control in Burma (Burmese)

Palaung Women’s Organization: Report: Poisoned Hills

This post is in: Weekly Highlights