Burma Suspends a Dam Project after Protests

Burma has decided to suspend a controversial giant dam funded by China in the north, after unusual popular protest, said a government official on Friday.

President Thein Sein told the parliamentarians met in session in the capital Naypyidaw that Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State, would be suspended until the end of the mandate of this government, the official said .

“The president has decided to stop the dam project because the government is elected by the people and the government must respect the will of the people,” he said, adding that there would now be discussions with the Chinese.

The environmentalists have long complained that the project would inundate dozens of villages, immigrate at least 10,000 people and cause irreversible damage to a region which is very rich in biodiversity.

In a protest without violence on Monday, some participants wore their T-shirt with slogans calling for an end to this project. And last week, a man had been arrested in front of the Chinese embassy in Rangoon.

The opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was also asked in August to Burma and China to “reconsider” the project to avoid the “consequences that could endanger lives and homes”, in a statement released by her dissolved party national League for Democracy (NLD).

A few weeks earlier, the NGO Environmental Working Group in Burma had called to put an end to all mining projects in Burma’s natural resources, mainly financed by foreigners.

They accused the project of being a source of conflict in areas inhabited by ethnic minority groups, accounting for one third of the 50 million inhabitants.

In June, heavy fighting erupted between rebel Kachin and the Burmese army in the vicinity of the dam project that has become a symbol of their struggle against the central government.