Chinese workers freed from Kachin dam

Around 30 Chinese nationals who were trapped for several days in a hydropower station as armed conflict engulfed parts of Kachin state have been released and returned to China.

The workers at the Taping Hydropower Station, which lies inside Burmese territory, were unable to leave last week when fighting broke out between Burmese troops and the insurgent Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

Until yesterday the KIA had refused to remove road blocks on the route between Taping and the nearby Chinese border that were put in place to stop Burmese reinforcements reaching the main battleground in Momauk township.

La Nan, joint-general secretary of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation, said that the workers had “left open all the flood gates in the dam to minimise damage to the power station, completely stopping its circulation”.

The KIA surrounded the power station on 10 June, after it had agreed the previous day to allow a unit of Burmese troops in to check on the Chinese workers and gauge whether any damage had occurred to facilities. The unit then refused to leave, prompting a fire fight between troops and the surrounding Kachin soldiers.

A number of Burmese troops, including Colonel Aung Du who led the unit, were hit by artillery shells and taken to Bhamo hospital. No Chinese workers were injured, according to the KIA.

The Taping dam is one of more than 40 hydropower projects in Burma backed by China, and is being built by the China Datang Corporation (CDT) and the Burmese electrical ministry.

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