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Myanmar: China: Myitsone dam: the wrath of Beijing over halt in project

Chinese Foreign Ministry demand Burmese counterpart ensures the "legitimate rights" of Chinese companies. The President of the CPI is "surprised" and "dismayed" at the decision. But the Burmese population is favorable to the president, against the "threat" of China. Doubts on expiry of the mandate ...

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Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Consternation, weakly veiled threats and criticism of the government and its president Thein Sein. The controversy is still raging over the halt in construction of the Myitsone dam in Kachin territory, northern Myanmar, on the border area with China. The Beijing authorities are demanding agreements be respected and do not exclude retaliation in trade relations. The managers of the Chinese company engaged in the construction of the power plant have expressed shock and are threatening to take legal action. However, so far there have been no indications of a change in direction in Nayipydaw, which is sticking to its decision - announced last week, with the approval of Aung San Suu Kyi and the vast majority of Burmese - to halt the construction of the 3.6 billion dollar mega-plant (see AsiaNews 30/09/2011 Burmese President stops construction of Myitsone dam).

Lu Qizhou, president of state-owned China Power Investment (CPI), the project manager, said he was "surprised" by the decision of the Burmese head of state and judges choice "disconcerting". He adds that Nayipydaw must respond to "a number of legal issues", in case of failure to comply with the agreement. "The losses– he adds - would be well beyond direct investment and manufacturing costs." In addition to possible litigation and appeals in court, the fate of work already completed remains to be seen, including a 2 thousand MW power plant in Chinbwe, designed to meet the energy requirements needed for the construction of the Myitsone dam (6 thousand MW).

Meanwhile, the Beijing government is sending far from conciliatory messages to its Burmese counterparts. Hong Lei, Foreign Ministry spokesman, called the "countries concerned" to safeguard the "legitimate rights" and "the interests of Chinese companies." The Communist leadership wants to negotiate with its Burmese counterpart, stating that there will be no second thoughts about building a facility that will give 90% of its electricity production to China for the next 50 years.

However, the environmental impact that the dam will have on the Kachin area and throughout the country, due to the alteration of the course of the Irrawaddy River, the largest in Myanmar remains on the margins of the debate. If the dam were to go ahead 40 villages will be submerged and more than 10 thousand people driven from their areas of origin. The leadership of the Chinese colossus CPI plan to move the confluence of the rivers N'mai and Mali, which create the Irrawaddy. They are also brandishing surveys according to which the majority (80%) of the Burmese would welcome the plant.

In fact, environmental and opposition activists, Aung San Suu Kyi, Christians and Buddhists, ordinary citizens are united and deeply opposed to the Myitsone dam. The entire nation has welcomed with joy - mixed with astonishment - president Thein Sein's decision to suspend work. However, the presidential term expires in 2015 and there is no guarantee that the project will not be resumed after the appointment of a new head of state. Moreover, China is Myanmar's main trading partner, with investments and projects worth billions of dollars. But China's thirst for energy collides with the pride and the anger of the people of Burma, that it will not submit to demands by its powerful neighbour: "The position of the Chinese government is a threat to culture and traditions of our country - said U Ohn, leading environmentalists in Yangon – we will never abandon Myitsone, even in exchange for all [the wealth] in China. "

Source: Asia News
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