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Myanmar: President Suspends Dam Project

Construction of the controversial hydroelectric dam project on the Ayeyarwaddy River located in the northern part of Myanmar has been suspended by the government. President Thein Sein sent a letter to Parliament informing them that the dam project will be postponed for the sake of public interest.

The project is one of the infrastructure investments by China in Myanmar. The plan was to export the power generated from this plant to China.

Last month, Minister of Electric Power Zaw Min told reporters that the government will not suspend the project despite the concerns raised by some groups. But public activities like petition signing, workshops and community seminars urging the government to stop the dam construction intensified in the past few weeks. Even media organizations echoed the side of the public including well-known individuals who asked the president to cancel the project.

Ayeyarwaddy River, Myanmar. Photo from Flickr page of DamienHR used under CC license Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Ayeyarwaddy River, Myanmar. Photo from Flickr page of DamienHR used under CC license Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Myanmar netizens expressed support to the decision made by the government. HeinHlyan528 commented on the news page of Eleven Media Group, a well-known media outlet in Myanmar:

First of all, I’d like to say thank you to Mr. President who postponed the dam project. Everybody who is interested in Myanmar affairs would know how it would have been difficult to make such decision. I wholeheartedly thank Mr. President for making a courageous decision by fulfilling the public wish despite its impact on the long term energy needs of China which protected Myanmar in the Security Council of the UN; and the legal repercussion of voiding the contracts that have been signed already. It would be a historic act. I, as a Myanmar citizen, wish to know how our beloved China will response to this matter.

Another commenter, babymilo, mentioned:

From postponing till demolishing, we still need to march together.

Eleven Media gathered the reactions of the public. A 60-year old local from Myitkyina expressed her relief over the cancellation of the project

Did the government really postpone it? I’m so glad. It doesn’t need to be mentioned how I have been really worried about this project. Not only me but the whole town, the whole country. That [project] would destroy the nature. All would get in trouble. I’m so glad to hear this news.

Meanwhile, NayOoPeople posted this comment on the Facebook page of the Voice Weekly, another popular journal in Myanmar.

Great!!!! This is a beginning of the successful trust building process between DASSK, Burmese citizens, ethnic groups, and the present government!!

But not all citizens believe that the suspension of the project is a sign of change in the country. An anonymous commenter left this message on the Irrawaddy News blog

They can now announce themselves as so called government of the people. But they didn’t mention if it will be stopped for good. They will make profit out of it. Even if they couldn’t, they will need to wait only five years. It cannot be said that it’s for public. It cannot be said that the situation has changed in Myanmar, too.

Tint Kyaw Naing also cautioned against premature celebration

Does it mean that if it would not continue under the democracy government, it would be implemented under the army government in the future? If so, it has to be continued!

The Irrawaddy News also mentioned that global democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed the President’s decision during a meeting with Minister Aung Kyi.

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