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In a signing ceremony in Nyapidaw last week Burma’s Minster for Electric Power no. 1 Zaw Min signed a memorandum with a Chinese company to dam the Ngawchanka river with a 1055 megawatt hydropower project.
Also attending the signing with Yunnan Provincial Investment Holding Ltd chairman, Bao Minghu, was the minister for Electric Power no. 2, Khin Maung Myint, finance and revenue minister, Hla Tun, and deputy chief justice Dr. Tin Shun, along with other dignitaries from Yunnan and Naypyidaw.
There have been a number of large-scale Chinese projects in Burma’s northern Kachin state, most notably the Myitsone dam near the Kachin state capital, Myitkina. The controversial dam looks set to displace tens of thousands of locals and, perhaps as a result, was the victim of a bomb attack in April that killed three and injured around 20.
Such incidents and the unstable nature of much of northern Burma lead the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) earlier this month to publicly warn Chinese investors of the dangers of investing in the region.
Ah Nan, from the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG), told DVB that “We are trying to follow up, but the dam is in the NDAK (New Democratic Army-Kachin) controlled area”.
“According to other dams in Kachin state and Burma as a whole, it’s very clear that the electricity is for the Chinese – the [Burmese government] will sell all the electricity, it’s not for the local people at all.”
Electricity is a hot issue in Burma, with many areas being severely short despite the bountiful natural resources that include a river network that is being dammed almost entirely for Burma’s energy-hungry neighbours. As well as heavy Chinese involvement in the country’s north, India has had stop start involvement in hydropower projects such as the Tamanthi dam in western Burma.
The junta and their associated crony businesses can reap vast profits from the investments, both through selling the electricity and providing services in the construction process respectively. It is notable that in the Myitsone bombing the offices of the Asia World Company were targeted. Asia World is one of Burma’s largest conglomerates and was set up by junta friend, Lo Hsing Han, on the back of the vast profits he made in the narcotics business.