The Burma Army orders Shan Army to clear way for Chinese Mega Projects while surrounding Shan State with tanks and artillery.
Burma’s military has given an ultimatum to the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) to remove its troops from the West Bank of the Salween River, near the construction of a Chinese backed mega dam.
On March 26, Burma’s Northeast Regional Commander ordered the SSA-N to move away from the area east of the Tangyan-Mong Kao road or face an attack by Burma’s military, local Shan groups said.
The SSA-N had until recently been permitted to operate in the area under both a 1989 ceasefire and a 2012 peace agreement with Burma’s government.
Shan sources report that thousands of Burma Army troops, including artillery and tanks, had been massing in Tangyan and Mong Hsu areas in Shan State since Febuary this year.
Tangyan lies 20 kilometers southwest of Nong Pha, where construction on one of six planned dams on the Salween River in Burma is proceeding. The plan was originally announced in Burma’s parliament on February 27.
“Little is known about the project,” said the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation in a statement to the media, “except for an announcement in December 2009 that Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power No. 1 had signed an MOU with China Hydropower Engineering Consulting Group (HydroChina) to develop two dams, one at Nong Pha and one at nearby Man Tung, on the Nam Ma tributary of the Salween, which will together produce 1,200 Megawatts.”
The group said that it was feared that events could lead to growing conflict.
“It is feared that the Burmese Army will use force to seize the SSA-N territories, as in 2009 when it launched a major offensive on the Kokang ceasefire group in northeast Shan State. The seizure of the Kokang area has enabled Chinese dam builders to proceed with the giant Kunlong dam on the Salween, where construction of access roads to the site by Asia World Company is almost completed. Most of the 1,400 MW produced by the Kunlong Dam will be exported to China.”
Previous attacks by the Burma Army against SSA-N forces in the middle of 2011 had led to the displacement of over 30,000 people.
“If full-scale war breaks out again in northern Shan State, there will be large scale displacement and suffering,” said Sapawa spokesperson Sai Khur Hseng. “These are the costs of dam-building in Burma’s war zones.” He added.
Shan Sapawa urged a halt to all dam projects on the Salween River while peace negotiations were still underway with various ethnic armed groups.
“The issue of natural resources is at the heart of the conflict in Shan State,” said Sai Khur Hseng “Selling off the Salween, the lifeblood of our state, before even bringing the issue to the table will derail the peace process for sure.”