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Japan Should Investigate Abuses at Burma Hydropower Project before Considering New Support

By Burma Rivers Network and Karenni Development Research Group  •  November 2, 2011

Burma Rivers Network (BRN) together with the Karenni Development Research Group (KDRG), representing dam-affected communities in Burma, urges the Japanese Government to investigate abuses linked to Lawpita (Baluchaung) No. 2 hydropower plant, Burma’s first major hydropower project in Karenni State, before considering any new support. The Lawpita project was funded by a Japanese reparations payment after World War II.

On October 21, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it is considering providing official development assistance (ODA) to the Burmese government to rehabilitate the Lawpita No.2 hydropower plant, in response to what it views as the Burmese government’s progress toward democratization.

Over 12,000 people were forced from their homes by the Lawpita project. Thousands of Burma Army soldiers came in to secure the project, resulting in abuses against the local population including forced labor, sexual violence, and extrajudicial killings. Water use was prioritized for the power plants, causing water shortages and destructive floods that destroyed crops. Today there are an estimated 18,000 landmines surrounding the power plants and pylons. Despite these costs, still today eighty percent of the local population has no access to electricity, as most is sent to central Burma.

After heavy rains in September 2011, the military released water from the Lawpita project dam without warning, causing destructive flooding in many townships downstream and demonstrating the mismanagement of the project.

“Until today, Lawpita is still surrounded by landmines and local villagers are forced to guard the electric lines” said Khu Thaw Reh, the coordinator of KDRG. “The Japanese need to investigate the ongoing human rights abuses at the project site before considering further grants to Burma’s military-backed government.”

Japan is among several countries considering renewal of investments and aid to Burma in recent months despite ongoing civil war and abuses. Armed conflict continues near dam projects in Shan, Kachin, Karenni, and Karen states as ethnic peoples struggle for political rights.

“Now is not an appropriate time for large scale investments in Burma” said Sai Sai of the Burma Rivers Network. “Not only are these projects failing to benefit local people but they are leading to abuses.”

Contact: 
Mr. Sai Sai +66 88 4154386 (English and Burmese)
Mr. Thaw Reh +66 98 356128 (English and Burmese)
Ms. Eh Lily + 66 8 1 366 0621 (Japanese)

Download the full report here.

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This post is in: Aid and Development, Business and Human Rights, Environmental and Economic Justice, Press Release

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