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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

Salween Dams


  • 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 ArmyNorth, 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.com, www.burmariversnetwork.org

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This post is in: Business and Human Rights, Environmental and Economic Justice

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