‘Thein Sein Violated the Official Contract’
INTERVIEW

‘Thein Sein Violated the Official Contract’

Myanmar, Burma, CPI, China, myitsone, dam, hydropower, kachin,

The suspended Myitsone hydropower project in northern Burma’s Kachin State. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burma’s President Thein Sein in 2011 suspended the Myitsone hydropower dam in northern Kachin State amid widespread opposition to the project among Burmese people concerned its social and environmental impacts. The project, which would send most its power to China, remains highly controversial, but Chinese investors want it to resume as soon as possible.   

The Ministry of Electric Power granted permission to local firm Asia World and China’s state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) to construct the dam. Beijing has said it will respect the will of Burmese public and the decision of their government, but hopes the Myitsone dam will resume after Burma’s 2015 election.

In a recent interview with The Irrawaddy’s senior reporter May Sit Paing, Jiang Lizhe, CPI’s director of public affairs, talked about why China wants to resume the dam project and responded to criticisms about his company’s involvement in this project.

Question: Do you think the Myitsone dam project can resume under the administration of a new government in Burma?

Answer: It will be up to the government’s decision. We have always respected the choice of the current one, which decided to suspend the project on Sept. 30, 2011. We implemented the dam construction exactly following the government’s rules and regulations, and in accordance with procedures and laws. We also signed an agreement contract. Parties that have signed such a contract, which follows international standards and laws, have a responsibility to fulfill it. Therefore, we are hoping that issues related to the Myitsone dam project will be settled by the appropriate means.

Q: Why do you think local people living around the Myitsone area and many political and social activists have called for an end to this project?

A: There was no activity against the project until just before its suspension. We had a very good relationship with local people. We distributed water and electricity to them free of charge to make their lives easier. We also donated to them 1,188 tons of rice. Besides, to help improve the education and health situation in the area, we gave out more than 50 scholarships and donations to hospitals. Many locals have told us that the suspension of the project has caused real hardships for them and that they want it to be continued.

Q: How do you respond to the accusation that the dam project would destroy the Irrawaddy River?

A: We systematically studied the impact of Myitsone dam hydropower project on areas located in the lower part of the Irrawaddy River. Our study included changes of current, use of water resources, control of flumes, settlement of sediment, flooding, the level of sea water coming into the river, and social and economic development. After the completion of the project there will be only a small change in the flow of current in rainy season and in summer, and the amount of water flowing annually will not decrease. Also, sea water will not come into areas located in the lower part of the river because of the project construction on the upper part. Instead, those areas will receive positive impacts such as better flood control and improvement of transportation using waterways.

Q: Some activists have criticized CPI’s Environmental Impact Assessment for the Myitsone dam project, saying that it contains insufficient environmental data and other weaknesses. Do you have any comment on that?

A: In 2008-2009, some 100 Chinese and Burmese environmental experts conducted a field survey and thorough studies. The outcomes of their studies and surveys are already on our website. We should respect their brilliant participation and efforts on environmental protection and conservation. We welcome any environmental expert who is willing to cooperate with us effectively and we pay serious attention to scientific studies. However, when we looked at the criticism against us, we found that the people who criticized us did not know about the real situation.

Q: Critics have said that Chinese investors have only recently engaged in philanthropic and social activities, and been in touch with political parties and organizations in order to improve their relations with Burmese people. Is this correct?

A: Let’s say if you have a good friend who is very kind and contributes to others’ benefit very much but never tells anyone about him- or herself. One day, a bad person puts blame on your friend in the international arena and makes them believe that he/she is not a good person. Do you think such action is fair for your friend?

Over the previous decades, Chinese people provided the Burmese with a lot of help. We also supported them when their country was under economic sanctions. We, however, never said a word about what we did. That’s why most of those who have criticized us do not know what has really happened and still believe we are bad. We should have informed the world long ago what we had done for Burma’s social and economic development.

Q: Why does CPI want to continue the hydropower project in spite of the challenges and public opposition?

A: Local people are, in fact, not against this project. They just misunderstand it because they don’t know the reality, and because of rumors and wrong information. If they [both the Burmese government and the general public] know about the true color of the project, we believe they will make the right choice.

The Myitsone hydropower project is a Burmese project. It is important for Burma’s development and will also build up people’s living conditions. President Thein Sein violated the official contract and suspended the project. We hope his government will be able to give us answers with regard to the suspension.

The Myitsone project came into existence because the Burmese government invited CPI to help solve project-related difficulties and requirements such as funding, technology, the consumer market [for its power], etc.

Only 25 percent of people in Burma now have access to electricity. Such a huge hydropower project is needed to solve the electricity shortage in the country. This project will be beneficial to the Burmese government, local businesses and people. Thus, every concerned individual and party should work together to make it successful.

Q: I understand that the CPI has greatly invested in this project. How much has it invested so far?

A: We have estimated that a total of about US$25 billion will be invested for [multiple] hydropower projects in the upper part of the Irrawaddy River. We had already invested $1.2 billion before the Myitsone project was suspended.

Q: How much money have you given to the Burmese Government?

A: According to our agreement, the investor has to provide technology and funding, and help look for an electricity consumer market for Burma. On the Burmese government side, it has to invest natural resources as its share in the project. For that, it will gain 10 percent of the electricity free of charge as well as a 15 percent share and a lot of revenues. The benefit Burma gets from the project construction and operation will be much more than CPI does.

Q: Do you think the suspension of the Myitsone project had an impact on foreign investment in Burma?

A: Yes. It had an impact on credibility. A lot of foreign investors, who were watching this project for a long time, were surprised when it was suspended. Then, they had to recalculate the amount of risk they would have to consider if they planned to invest in Burma. It was unexpected, but everybody knows that the amount of investment in Burma dropped significantly after it had suspended the Myitsone project.


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5 Responses to ‘Thein Sein Violated the Official Contract’

  1. Do not blame Thein Sein. China must blame itself and Than Shwe. It is what happening if you make deals with dictators. Dictators make deals against or without the approval of the public. China is learning the lessons from the Burmese public. It will learn more lessons in the future.

  2. China is blaming thein sein. Did thein sein and his cabinet signed the contract? Lawless military regime signed the contract which is no longer valid today. So, let the loser loses the game. We the people do not want to hear the name ‘china’. We love Chinese women for one night anyway.

  3. Forget about the Dam.

    All Burmese people doesn’t like that Dam.

  4. Let Than Shwe finish it. Give him a shovel and a wheelbarrow and get some cameras down there. It would make a good reality show.

  5. In history, when Communist China was economical sanctioned by EU, US and all other countries, Russian government bullied communist China in urgent demand of debt payment from Russia president, Nikita Khrushchev regarding the communist China’s huge spending on Korean war against with Allied force, supported by UN , headed by US , not very long after world war 2.

    US was worried about the spread of communist in all Asia at that time as well in knowing of Vietnam, Lao and Cambodia wars.

    Chinese Communist people liberation army soldier one million were killed in Korean war from China side alone and there, Chairman Moa’s son was also killed in around 1950 when China supported north Korea to invade south Korea. Nobody won this war although US army used portable deadly M2 Flamethrower (please see the movie ) and any other high tech weapons in war.
    UN said communist China invaded south Korean with north Korean army so UN fought China/north Korea and put sanction on China at that time.(Now, US will put sanction on Russian upon the invasion of Ukraine).
    For the reason of north Korean invasion, North Koran accused of US being favored pro-Japanese south Korean (traitors) in south Koran administration as well as politicians in the aspect of Korean unification just before Korean war. Because Japan army surrendered to Allied force (US,UK and etc) unconditionally from the Japanese occupied south Korea instead of surrendering to Russian force. I do not know who is right and wrong in the cause of Korean war.

    Communist China asked all his people to eat rice water more or less daily in order to pay the all debt to Russian who also pulled out all industrial and any other supports from China.
    Communist China has needed to struggle by themselves to reach this current future superpower since then. At that time, who helped China. I am very sure that late U nu (rich Burma) and Ne win (very poor Burma) could not /would not help China because they were fighting with Burmese communist, supported by very poor communist China.
    I would like to know did the Chinese people blame Russian for being bullied on them in the Russian slogan of friendship with China. In fact, Chinese people should blame their killer, Chairman Mao who was too naive to trust Russian when communist Chairman Mao was helpless at that time.
    Now, communist China was blamed by some Burmese in this forum with their own reasons to make this into the dirty political issue with the slogan of racial discrimination. Communist China should not trust Bama military rulers regarding to this hydropower and all any business issues. I am not sure those ( some Burmese ) are real Buddhist or not. Buddhist teaching does not include any kinds of discrimination, seeking free-lunch and jealousy but include try yourself and improve yourself with ethical and moral principles. When DASSK said “do not kill human with her peace price” (Rohyigya were killed by Fox paramilitary men and psy monks in the slogan of illegal stay in Burma-how many Burmese are now illegally staying in oversea?), DASSK was downgraded by some naive,low educated bama Buddhist. When DASSK rejects interfaith marriage, deliberately submitted by fox and puppet thein sein in bama military Parliament, DASSK will be more downgraded by above naive, low educated bama Buddhist. Those dirty fingers never point themselves first, but to always others with the learning of free-lunch, learned from fox than shwe against upon all ethnics.

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