My­it­sone looms large ahead of China meet

The Myanmar Times - - News - Yeemon­tun@mm­times.com YE MON

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.

Photo: EPA

Kachin ac­tivists protest against the My­it­sone dam project out­side the ho­tel where the Chi­nese am­bas­sador stayed in My­itky­ina, Kachin State, on June 4.

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