Activists slam Chinese-backed dam projects

Dec 4, 2007 (DVB), About 30 Burmese ethnic environmental groups and Thai NGOs staged a demonstration outside the Chinese consulate in Chiang Mai yesterday to protest against Chinese-backed dam projects in Burma.

The protest was timed to coincide with the launch of a report by the Palaung Youth Network Group exposing the military influence and human rights abuses linked to the Shweli dam project.

Mai Aung Ko, environmental issues coordinator for Palaung Youth Network Group, said that the report was intended to raise awareness of the impact of dam projects on local people.

"We did this report to bring out the voices of the local citizens, who have lost their homes and farmlands due to the ongoing dam projects by the Chinese government and the Burmese junta," he said.

The foreign affairs coordinator of the group, Lway Cherry, highlighted the problems caused by the military presence in dam-building areas.

"Mobilising Burmese army troops to the villages in the project areas causes a huge threat to local woman as well. Several incidences of sexual abuse, forced labour and forced seizure of lands have been reported."

Ko Aung Nge from Burmese Rivers Watch said that Chinese companies involved with dam projects in Burma were not respecting their own environmental rules on such projects.

"There are currently about 20 ongoing dam projects in Burma and more than 10 of them involve Chinese companies," he said.

"The Chinese government has set up environmental rules for building dams within their own country. We would like to urge them to ensure their companies comply with the same regulations when building dams in Burma."

Aung Nge said that dams being built on the Salween and Irrawaddy rivers would cause a great deal of environmental damage, and called for the government to at least provide information to local people on the advantages and disadvantages of the projects.

Salween Rivers Watch representative Ko Sai Sai said that the projects would provide funds to the Burmese military regime.

"These dam projects will bring in a lot of cash for the Burmese junta and encourage them to buy more weapons. And also, the dams are being built on our ethnic lands and we are the ones who are going to suffer the consequences," he said.

Reporting by Maung Too and Htet Yazar

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