Myitsone looms large ahead of China meet
CHINA-BACKED developments are expected to loom large during Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s upcoming visit to China, as many anticipate striking a deal on the suspended Myitsone dam project will be the order of the day.
Political analyst U Than Soe Naing believes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be under pressure to reach a resolution on the controversial mega-dam.
“I think that the [National League for Democracy] government has no solution for the Myitsone dam, and they have no prospect for compensation. China will ask her about the Myitsone dam during her trip. She cannot avoid [it],” he said.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been a vocal opponent of the Myitsone project. In 2011, she penned a personal appeal calling for a mutually agreeable resolution. The missive has gone viral on Facebook in Myanmar in recent days, ahead of the landmark China trip which starts tomorow.
“While recognising that large sums of money have already been spent on the realisation of the project, we would urge that in the interests of both national and international harmony, concerned parties should reassess the scheme and cooperate to find solutions that would prevent undesirable consequences and thus allay the fears of all who are anxious to protect the Ayeyarwady [River],” the letter reads.
The Myitsone dam project was suspended in 2011 by then-president U Thein Sein.
The proposed US$3.6 billion, 4600-megawatt hydropower facility on the Ayeyarwady River was the result of a deal between the previous military government and China Power Investment (CPI).
In 2009, Myanmar and China concluded a hydropower cooperation framework agreement, in which both parties supported CPI’s investment and development. CPI indicated that then-prime minister General Soe Win had been the one who invited them in 2006 to invest in Myanmar’s development by building the dam.
In 2009, CPI – now Upstream Ayeyarwaddy Confluence Basin Hydropower Company – set up a new village in 2009 to relocate the residents from the hydropower project area.
Daw Ja Hkaung of the Mungchying Rawt Jat organisation in Kachin State, a veteran opponent of the Myitsone project, said that the MRJ hopes the foreign minister’s discussions in China will lead to a favourable outcome.
“We don’t want to continue the project [nor do most citizens]. The government needs to reconsider the best thing for the Ayeyarwaddy River,” she said.
The government last week announced it would form a commission for reviewing and scrutinising hydropower projects along the Ayeyarwaddy. Following yesterday’s parliamentary session, commission chair and Pyithu Hluttaw Deputy Speaker U T Khun Myat told reporters not to worry about the project.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang remarked at a press conference yesterday that Chinese leaders intend to exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common interest.
In remarks issued on China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, Mr Lu was quoted as saying bilateral relations are in a state of growth, and that it is thus of great importance to promote a comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation.
“It is believed that the visit will help enhance strategic communication, deepen pragmatic cooperation, increase amity among the people, further advance the bilateral relationship and deliver more benefits to people from both sides,” he said.
Former MP and political columnist U Ye Tun says he doubts Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will back down from her previously stated position on the Myitsone matter, but says negotiations will require significant political finesse. He pointed to the formation of a special commission on the Myitsone dam as a show of goodwill toward China – and a means of buying time.
“Her trip could end without any agreement,” he said.
Kachin activists protest against the Myitsone dam project outside the hotel where the Chinese ambassador stayed in Myitkyina, Kachin State, on June 4.