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Villagers to be displaced by dam project

Jun 23, 2008 (DVB), Twelve villages will be flooded and more than 5000 acres of farmland submerged if the Upper Paunglaung dam project continues, the Kayan Women's Union said in a report published this month.

The more than 3500 inhabitants of the villages, most of whom are subsistence farmers, will be forced to leave their homes and lands if the project goes ahead.

According to the KWU report, entitled Drowning the Green Ghosts of Kayanland, villagers were not consulted about the project and have not been offered compensation for their loss of land.

The dam is being built with Chinese investment in the western Kayan territories in the Pyinmana Hills, and is intended to increase the capacity of the Lower Paunglaung dam, which is currently providing power to the new capital Naypyidaw.

KWU claims local villagers have faced human rights abuses and military encroachment on their territory since construction work began on the Upper Paunglaung dam in 2004.

"Since the project began four years ago, we have seen an influx of Burma Army troops into villages in the area, and increased human rights abuses against local communities," the group said.

"3,500 villagers living in the potential flood zones are facing forcible displacement, and the inundation of over 5000 acres of farmland, as well as sacred graveyards and Buddhist shrines," they went on.

"The dam will bring no benefit to local people, but will simply generate income for the regime and Chinese investors. The electricity produced will be prioritised for the military elite and not for local development."

The group called for the immediate termination of the dam project and the withdrawal of government troops from Kayan regions.

"The aim of the report is to raise awareness among our own peoples as well as internationally about how the regime and the Chinese investors are trampling on the rights of our people in building this dam," the report said.

"[It also aims] to call for an immediate end to the military invasion of our lands and the exploitation of our resources without local benefit."

Reporting by Aye Nai

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