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(18 February 2013)
 A recent proposal by a Harvard University think-tank to restart the Irrawaddy-Myitsone dam project in order to “power the peace process” in Kachin state fails to address the political root causes of the conflict.

The proposal recommends a new tripartite business agreement to build the seven Irrawaddy headwater dams, letting the Kachin state government become a new shareholder together with the Myanmar and Chinese governments.

It is proposed that the business partnership and “substantial revenues” granted to the Kachin state government would persuade Kachins to support the multi-dam project, and “hasten real peace in Kachin and possibly other states”.

This proposal incorrectly suggests that money is at the root of opposition to the dams as well as the current conflict. The real root cause is the Kachin people’s lack of decision-making power under the previous and current unitary constitutions.

This lack of power has resulted in decades of exploitation of our natural resources, causing widespread land confiscation, forced relocation, loss of livelihoods and social problems in Kachin State. These experiences have taught us that only the political power to manage and control our own resources will protect our lands and livelihoods, and ensure that development will benefit local people.

“Business deals are no substitute for political reform,” said KDNG spokesperson, Ah Nan. “The Kachin conflict can’t be solved by money. We want self-determination, and the right to decide how our own lands and rivers are managed.”

The paper suggests that the new deal will also benefit China, as they will be able to restart the project, and enjoy increased electricity at “below wholesale prices,” as well as have “enhanced pipeline safety” for their controversial Shwe gas pipeline.

The paper, funded by the Norwegian government, suggests adding another multi-national or bi-lateral aid agency as a minor partner in the Myitsone project. Norway has publicly stated its interest in hydropower investment in Burma.

View PDF of statement here. 


The full paper “Powering the Peace Process” can be viewed on http://www.ash.harvard.edu/ash/Home/Programs/Institute-for-Asia/Publications/Journal-Articles-Occasional-Papers

ContactAh Nan - +66 84 8854 154