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Ethnic People Protest Proposed Dams on the Salween River

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A Group of Ethnic Youth Protesters at an Anti-Dam Ceremony
A Group of Ethnic Youth Protesters at an Anti-Dam Ceremony
Nai Saing – On 14th March a group of ethnic youths and women marched to the mouth of the Salween (Thanlwin) River in Moulmein, the Mon State capital, and held a prayer ceremony to pray that no dams are built on the river.

The government and multinational companies plan to build a series of dams on the Salween River in the Shan, Karen and Kayah (Karenni) States. These will have a serious impact on the many ethnic people, including Mons who live downstream of the proposed dams.

Anti-dam activist Saw Alex from the Karen Environment and Social Action Network said: “The Union Government plan to build many dams on the Salween River which I believe will not benefit the people. They must stop these plans. We united together and came here to express our views on the dams and show our opposition to them.”

He said there would be many negative impacts if the government builds the dams. Ethnic minority people in the dam construction areas will face forced relocation, displacement and loss of their livelihoods.

Most of the dams will be built in post-conflict areas, which have seen serious fighting between armed ethnic groups and the Burmese Army, known as the Tatmadaw.

Saw Alex said that dam building was not appropriate in areas where no peace settlement has been reached or areas where a ceasefire dialogue between armed ethnic armed groups and the government is still ongoing.

Kyi Zaw Lwin, a main organizer of the Mon State Youth Forum said: “If the government reaches an agreement with Thai companies to build five dams on the Salween River it will have a huge environmental impact.

“Changes to the water flow, deforestation and disappearance of water species will seriously affect ethnic people. The change in water flow and flooding in particular will seriously affect our Mon people who live downstream [from the dams].”

About 150 ethnic youths and women attended the prayer ceremony. They were Mon, Karen, Shan, Karenni, Arakan, and Kachin people. These included young Mon people from Mon civil society organizations and from Balu Island in Chaung Zone Township.

Multinational companies involved in dam construction on the Salween river are: Thailand’s EGAT International Co. Ltd., China Three Gorges Corporation, Hanergy Holding Company, Hydrochina Corporation and China Datang Investment Co., Ltd.

Local cronies also involved in the construction are: International Group of Entrepreneurs Co. Ltd., Shwe Taung and the Asia World Company according to anti-dam groups.

They accused the dam builders of being insincere in their plans and they suspect that government troops will be sent into the areas where the dams were being built, which would create more conflict.

The planned dams are: Kwan Lon Dam, Nong Pha Dam and Ta Sam Dam in Shan State; Ywa Thit Dam in Kayah (Karenni) State and Hat Gyi Dam in Karen State.

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