KSPP on Hydropower Dams: ‘If the People Do Not Agree to It, We Will Always Oppose It’

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP) has said that they will back the public in opposing the Myitsone hydropower dam and other dams on Kachin State’s rivers.

The comments follow a December 1 meeting in Myitkyina between the Burmese military’s commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and chairperson of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) Dr. Hkalam Samson. Among the issues discussed in the meeting were the highly controversial Myitsone dam, as well as other smaller dams in the area.

There are 11 dam projects being explored on the Mali Hka, N’mai Hka, and Ngor Cham Hka rivers, according to the Kachin Development Network Group.

While the Myitsone has been famously and popularly opposed throughout the country, reports indicated that Dr. Hkalam Samson had suggested to the military chief that it may be possible to pursue the smaller dam projects in the region.

“Whoever said it, if the people do not agree to it, we won’t accept it. Whether it was the KBC, the Catholic Church, the NLD [National League for Democracy] government or the Tatmadaw that said it, we wouldn’t accept it. We will never accept it,” KSPP vice chairperson 2 Gumgrawng Awng Hkam told NMG, adding, “If the people do not agree to it, we will always oppose it.”

Gumgrawng Awng Hkam said that hydropower dam projects and mega-development projects should not be implemented given the current political circumstances and could only be considered after a federal democratic Union was established in which locals could make decisions about their own natural resources.

“Our country is just at beginning steps of building a federal Union. We need to build a federal Union. Another thing we need is self-determination. We can consider whether to implement these mega-development projects only after we build a federal Union,” he told NMG.

The previous Thein Sein-led government, the Chinese government, and Chinese companies had agreed to build the 11 dams. In addition to the Myitsone, on the confluence of the N’Mai Hka and the Mali Hka—the source of the Irrawaddy River– five more would be located on the N’mai Hka, one on the Mali Hka, and four on the Ngor Cham Hka. After Thein Sein’s administration suspended the projects, China tried to restart them once the NLD came into power.

Locals in the Myitsone area and people across Burma have said that they are committed to continuing to demand the permanent halt of the Myitsone dam.