Thousands Protest in Myitkyina, Calling for ‘Permanent Halt’ to Myitsone Dam

Kachin protestors call for permanent halt to Myitsone dam on Feb. 2, 2019 in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State
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In the first demonstration on Myitkyina’s Manau grounds, around 7,000 locals demonstrated against the Myitsone hydropower dam, calling for a permanent halt to the project on Thursday.

The protest began at 9:00 a.m. with a prayer service, and continued with a march toward downtown Myitkyina. Participants included Kachin civil society organizations, religious leaders, and community members.

“We want the elected NLD [National League for Democracy] government to halt the Myitsone dam project permanently. That's why have taken up a protest against it,” Awng Ja, who works with the Kachin Development Network Group, told KNG.

During the demonstration, protesters shouted slogans that called the end of the Myitsone dam “our cause” and for projects that do not represent the desires of the people to be stopped immediately.

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Kachin protestors call for permanent halt to Myitsone dam on Feb. 2, 2019 in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State

Public opposition to the Myitsone dam is tied to pressure to restart the project, which was temporarily suspended by Burma’s former government led by U Thein Sein. It remains unclear if the current administration headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will continue with it.

Chinese ambassador H.E. Hong Liang met Kachin leaders and locals in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina in December of last year. The Chinese embassy in Yangon then released a controversial statement describing the meeting on January 13. It said, “the Kachin ethnic people in Kachin State do not oppose the Myitsone hydropower dam project. The organizations and people who oppose the dam project are outsiders.”

Nwat Naw Awng, a leader of the campaign to stop the Myitsone dam, told KNG that the statement felt “like they are challenging us” and that was why Thursday’s demonstration was held.