Villagers in the Northern District of Karen State on the Thai-Burma border gathered along the Salween River for the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Dams.
On March 14, the Karen River Network organized event to call for “No Dams” near the Ei Tu Hta internally displaced peoples’ camp on the banks of the Salween River in Mutraw (Papun) district that is controlled by the Karen National Union.
Saw Lar Nay Wah, secretary of the Karen Student Network Group, a member of the Karen River Network who took part in the protest, told Karen News that the environment should be protected for future generations.
“The reason we join together on the Salween River is not only for us, but so our next generations do not suffer the consequences of the dam. We want the river to flow freely without any dams.”
The protest organizers said that building a dam not only destroyed the natural beauty of the river but also destroyed the livelihood and of lives of local people. Villagers and environmental activists don’t want the negative consequences of the dam, and have held protests annually so that their voices will be heard by authorities.
The protest was attended by members of the Karen River Network, officials from KNU Mutraw District, environmental activists from Thailand, displaced people from Ei Tu Hta camp, students and villagers from six neighboring villages.
Saw Paul Sein Htwa, directory of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) pointed out in his speech that villagers wanted and needed peace and they did not want dams.
“Our Karen people ask for peace and freedom. What they [authorities] give us in response are dams. That is not what we asked for. The dam cannot bring us peace. We don’t want any dams. We are against it.”
Saw Poleh Kalee Lah Moo, a local villager, who joined the protest said he was determined to oppose the Salween River from being dammed.
“The Salween is our bloodline. This is our life. That’s why we don’t want any dams. I will protect this mighty river until I die. I also want to say to people who want to dam, don’t just think about yourselves, but consider our peoples’ needs.”
There are a total of 14 hydro-power dam projects proposed along the Salween River through Karen State, Shan State, and Karenni (Kayah) State. Three of them – Wae’ Gyi, Dar Kwin, and Hat Gyi dams are proposed for Karen State.
This year is the 16th time the International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Dams had been organized by the Karen Rivers Network. Protests were also held in Mon State, Karenni (Kayah) State, Shan State and at the proposed Hat Gyi Dam site.