China Backed Dam Projects “Fuelling” Conflict in Shan State

The Shan Human Rights Foundation, a community based human rights organisation, claims that since June 11th the Burma Army has been attacking civilians and is contravening its ceasefire agreement with the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N).

The SHRF alleged that the Burma Army had deployed nearly 2,000 soldiers in attacks against the SSA-N in Kehsi and Murng Hsu townships, Shan State and that the attacks had inflicted human rights abuses against “hundreds” of villagers.

“SHRF is gravely concerned at this troop build-up and expansion of military infrastructure, which completely contradict the claims by the Burmese government that it is seeking a peaceful settlement to the conflict,” SHRF said in a media statement.

“The first attack was carried out from June 11 to 14 in Murng Hsu, when hundreds of troops advanced on an SSA-N base near this ruby mining area. Shells were fired by troops stationed in a local village, placing civilian lives at risk. Villagers were also forced to act as guides and drivers for the troops during the attack.” The SHRF added.

The Burma Army sent as many as 50 trucks of soldiers from Mandalay to reinforce their positions for the operation preceding artillery and ground offensives.

SHRF said that the Burma Army launched more artillery attacks on June 26 against

SSA-N forces near Wan Hai and that following the bombardment, a force of 800 Burma Army soldiers had moved into local villages in the area.

The Burma Army was “restricting villagers’ movements and transport of rice, patrolling through villagers’ fields, destroying crops and fences, and looting villagers’ livestock. This has caused about 200 local villagers to flee their homes and seek refuge in a local temple,” SHRF claimed.

Civilians reported to SHRF that they were being used as forced labour for the Burma Army. “Local villagers [were] also ordered to provide 10,000 pieces of bamboo for the construction of barracks for a new artillery training centre at Man Kart, near Tangyan.”

SHRF also claimed that Burma Army forces had occupied a school in Wan Warb village, setting up a base there, thus preventing 125 students from attending school.

The SHRF media statement laid the blamed for the conflict on the government wanting to proceed with “control and exploitation of local natural resources,” including hydropower dam projects, and to “clear out” ethnic armed groups from the areas of strategic military importance. The SHRF cited the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on May 22 this year between the government’s Ministry of Electric Power and the Hydrochina Corporation as supposed evidence. The agreement means that the Naung Pha Dam project, on the Salween River, will go ahead in spite of the fact that the project is in an active conflict zone.

“The local contractor for the project is the International Group of Entrepreneurs (IGE), owned by the family of former minister Aung Thaung, who conveniently brokered the renewed ceasefire agreement with the SSA-N in 2012,” SHRF said.

“Now there is nothing left of our peanut and corn farm. The Burmese soldiers broke our fences and trampled on our crops. Our peanuts and corn were just beginning to sprout. Now it is all gone – my beloved farm which we depend on. I don’t know what to do now. The Burmese soldiers have also been killing villagers’ animals, such as chickens, for food.” A Shan villager fleeing conflict from Wan Hpaw Hsong area was quoted as saying.

The SHRF called on the government to halt development projects in active conflict zones.

“SHRF urges the Burmese government, Chinese and Thai investors to immediately cancel all dam projects on the Salween River, as they are fuelling the conflict.”

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