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KNU wants genuine peace before dam construction resumes

In an interview with DVB, The Karen National Union (KNU) said they would not allow the Hatgyi dam on the Salween River in Karen state to resume until a peace agreement has been made.

In 2013 the Burmese government gave the go ahead to China and Thailand to build six hydropower dams along the Salween River.

The six dams run through ethnic territories and many are in conflict zones.

The KNU, who oppose the dam, have said they want more transparency from the projects and will only consider them once genuine peace is achieved.

“The Hatgyi dam is in an area under our control,” said spokesperson of the KNU Brigade 5, Saw Kledoh. “Our position is not to allow the mega project until there is a guarantee after political talks.”

The Hatgyi dam was the first of the dams to start construction on the Salween River. However operations were suspended in 2007 after clashes with the KNU around the project site.

Last October the Thai government pressured Burma to speed up construction but the KNU said they would not allow operations to resume before a ceasefire has been agreed.


And a ceasefire seems a long-way off yet.

“Currently, there is still no clear decision on a ceasefire. There isn’t even any political dialogue yet. The guarantee is still far away,” said Saw Kledoh.

The projects have been met with protests and outrage from environmental and human rights groups.

Environmental damage, forced displacement and human rights abuses go hand in hand with these big investment projects.

The KNU said any investment project should benefit the local people and support the peace process.

“Even if the government and Border Guard Force allow the project to go ahead, we will not allow it and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army will not allow it,” said Pado Saw Thawthi Bwe, Secretary 1 of the KNU.

“Whenever we met with the government we said that if there is no political stability, there should not be development projects or border area development programmes.”

Last Friday two hundred villagers gathered at the Salween delta to pray and demand the suspension of the six dams. They fear the Salween River would soon be destroyed if the projects went ahead.

Burma Rivers Network, a 15-member alliance of activists, released a list of nearly 34,000 individuals and 131 civil society groups that called for total suspension of all hydro projects on the Salween.

If dam construction goes ahead in these ethnic controlled regions, ethnic leaders said, it could disrupt the peace process.



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