MYITKYINA, Burma — Environmental activists concerned that the controversial Myitsone dam project was never in fact halted say that a recently leaked document proves that construction is indeed moving ahead as previously planned.
The leaked document is a March 28 letter written by Chinese government officials to their Kachin state counterparts requesting that “500 road construction engineers” be given permission to enter Burma because “China Power Investment (CPI) is planning to restart the Myitsone Hydro-power Project”.
The letter addressed to Kachin state chief Minister Lajawn Ngan Seng, also asked that CPI be given permission to bring “1,000 tons of diesel, 200 tons of petrol, 10,000 tons of cement, 5 bulldozers, 6 excavators, 8 trucks, and 20 cars, as well as other necessary materials and goods (for rations) to enter” Burma at the Kambaiti (also spelt Kan Pai Ti) gate without having to pay import duty.
The letter written by the chief in charge of the Tengchong-Myitkyina Road Liaison Office is according to the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) solid proof refuting President Thein Sein’s September 30, 2011 announcement that project was suspended.
“CPI never stopped this project and now they want to bring in even more workers and materials” said KDNG spokesperson Ah Nan in a statement sent by the group on Tuesday.
“If the Myitsone dam was really suspended, the government would not allow any new workers to come in and all those remaining would be sent back to China”, Ah Nan added.
A recent article by the Chinese language edition of Bloomberg BussinessWeek says that 200 Chinese workers remain at the dam site months after Thein Sein’s official statement that the project would be suspended.
More than 2,000 villagers displaced by the project barred from returning
Although President Thein Sein announced on September 30 that construction of the Myitsone dam would be suspended during his term in office, none of the more than 2,000 residents of the five villages that were forcibly relocated to make way for the dam have received permission to return.
Last month a large number of Burma army soldiers were sent to Tang Hpre (also Tanghpre), one of the villages near the dam site, to enforce an eviction order against residents who tried to reclaim their homes following the official suspension of the project.
The planned 152-meter high Myitsone dam was to be the first in a series of seven dams that CPI will build on the upper Irrawaddy which according to the dam’s opponents would flood an area larger than Singapore and dramatically affect the lives of millions of people who live downstream, including in the Irrawaddy delta, home to two thirds of Burma’s rice production.
To build the series of dams which according to Chinese state media will produce a combined output of electricity that rivals the Three Gorges dam, CPI partnered with Burma’s state power utility Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE) and Asia World. The latter is a Burmese conglomerate, owned by Steven Law and his father Lo Hsing Han (or Law Sit Han), both alleged by the US government to be major narco-traffickers and money launders.