Community based organisations, including the Shan Human Rights organisation and Action for Rivers, have called for an immediate halt in government backed dam projects in Shan State, where conflict has escalated in recent months.
The Shan Human Rights organisation said it estimated that half of 43 government planned dam projects were to be constructed on rivers inside Shan State – condemning the push for the projects to go ahead in spite of a growing conflict with ethnic armed groups including ethnic Shan, Ta’ang, and ethnically Chinese Kokang
The Shan Human Rights organisation also reiterated their concerns for the wellbeing of tens of thousands of civilians who have been displaced by the government projects launched so far, pointing to a $1.4 billion project in Kunlong as a worrying precedent, because fighting between government forces and ethnic armed groups had already led to the death of construction workers and displaced villagers from at least 60 villages.
“Even as conflict sabotages one Salween dam, Chinese and Thai developers are pushing ahead with another,” said a statement released by the Shan Human Rights organisation.
Adding to the concerns of locals were that perhaps as much as 90% of all power generated by the projects would go to foreign investors, mainly from powerful neighbours, China and Thailand.
Burma’s internal conflicts has also seen tensions between the government and China heighten in recent weeks, with China launching fighter jet patrols last week in response to a bomb from a Burma government air force plane killing four people in China’s Yunnan province.
The incident comes as fighting between ethnic armies and government forces spiked last month. Dozens of Burma Army soldiers – estimates have gone as high as the 50s – were killed in Shan State over a three day period in February, the highest report of casualties from a single action in recent years.