Myitkyina Public to Protest Myitsone Dam

Kachin civil society organizations are preparing to hold a public protest on Thursday in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina against the proposed Myitsone dam.

Tsaji, from the Kachin Development Network Group, said they are calling for participation from people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds in a statewide protest of the Myitsone hydropower project, which would dam the confluence of the Irrawaddy River.

“All of us need to participate in a public protest against the Myitsone dam. We have a duty to protect the mother Irrawaddy River,” he told KNG.

Chinese ambassador H.E. Hong Liang met Kachin leaders and locals in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina in December of last year. The Chinese embassy in Yangon then released a controversial statement describing the meeting on January 13.

The embassy’s statement said, “the Kachin ethnic people in Kachin State do not oppose the Myitsone hydropower dam project. The organizations and people who oppose the dam project are outsiders.”

Tsaji said that the protest is being held to show that this statement “is completely wrong” and continue to call for the “permanent halt” of the Myitsone dam.

An expected 10,000 people will join Thursday’s protest on the Manau festival grounds in Myitkyina.

Mung Ra, a pastor with the Kachin Baptist Convention living in Mali Yang internally displaced people’s camp, said he will join the demonstration on behalf of those who were forced to move to make way for the dam project.

“Local people from the Myitsone area have faced many difficulties since they were relocated. We have opposed it because this river is essential for the whole country,” he said, adding that he also objects to China’s January statement. The companies involved in the hydropower project “have already destroyed our gardens, our paddy fields and our plants,” Mung Ra explained, adding that China must “take responsibility” for this.

The Myitsone project was temporarily halted by Burma’s former government led by U Thein Sein. It remains unclear if the current administration headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will continue with it.