Beijing Urges Myanmar to Restart Dam Construction

After the suspension of a controversial dam project in late September of 2011, Beijing is now urging Myanmar’s government to restart the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project, which was being built by a Chinese company. The Washington Post reports:

The officials, speaking on the sidelines of China’s annual legislative session, said the dam would produce badly needed electricity for Myanmar and raise living standards, the official China Daily reported Sunday.

It quoted a former head of the National Energy Administration, Zhang Guobao, as saying the dam is a good project that will bring local residents a better life.

It also quoted Lu Qizhou, president of China Power Investment Co., which is providing the financing for the project, as saying the company will do all it can to avoid negative environmental impacts from its projects.

“Myanmar is our friendly neighbor … we hope to restart the project as quickly as possible,” Lu said.

The Myitsone dam would go through the state of Kachin, and it was originally stopped because President Thein Sein claimed that it went against the will of the people. This region has been further destabilized when the Kachin Independence army violated a ceasefire in June 2011. Bejing also has an oil pipeline that runs from the Bay of Bengal through Kachin to Yunnan province , but the Myanmar government has assured Beijing that the pipeline would not be affected by the region’s unrest. The Times of India adds:

The pipeline is crucial for Beijing because of its constant fears about a possible blockade of its main oil route – the Strait of Hormuz – forcing it to facilitate mediation between the rebels and Myanmar government.

“As far as I know, Myanmar’s central government and the Kachin regional government have a positive, supportive attitude towards the building of this pipeline,” Chinese Yunnan province’s security chief Meng Sutie said. “At present, construction is proceeding smoothly and there have been no problems ,” Meng said.

Meng said China is trying to bring the government and the rebels on the negotiating table. “We are happy to see that both sides have been in contact with each other. We are providing whatever services we can….there has been progress. But the Kachin problem is a long-standing one.”

The unrest in Kachin has displaced over 50,000 people, many of whom have fled across the border to China.



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