The government of Burma (Myanmar) has made a surprise announcement that the construction of a huge hydroelectric dam being built in a partnership with China is being suspended, at least until 2015, according to the BBC
Burma – Myitsone dam
The Myitsone dam project is definitely aligned with Chinese culture, rather than Burmese culture, or the culture of any other country. With 1.5 billion people, China faces a reality that people are a commodity and land is priceless. So China has more dams within its borders than any other country, according to the Guardian. Chinese dams have displaced an estimated 23 million people. Dam breaks in the country with the world’s worst safety record have killed approximately 300,000 people. The enormous Three Gorges dam project alone displaced 1.3 million people.
The Burma dam project is clearly a Chinese projects, and would have created a reservoir of some 296 square miles, an area larger than Singapore, in addition to displacing thousands of people, mostly from the Kachin ethnic group, according to environmental group International Rivers.
Despite that, some 90% of the electricity would be exported to China, which adds insult to injury.
So it’s not surprising that there’s been widespread opposition to the dam project from the Kachin People’s Organization, conservationists, scholars, and political activists including Aung San Suu Kyi.
What IS surprising is that the Burmese government actually acceded to the demands of the opposition, risking a major confrontation with China. Burma’s government is currently the target of international sanctions that were imposed on the former military government, and China has been one of the countries continuing allies.
The $3.6 billion Myitsone project was being developed jointly by the state Myanmar Ministry of Electric Power, the privately-owned Asia World Company of Burma and the China Power Investment Corporation.
Objections from China
China’s Foreign Ministry issued the following cautious statement on Saturday, in reaction to the project suspension:
“The Chinese Government always supports Chinese enterprises cooperating with enterprises of other countries based on the principle of mutual respect, mutual benefit and equality, requires them to perform duties and fulfill obligations in strict accordance with laws and regulations of the host country and urges relevant government to protect the legal and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises. The Myitsone Dam is a jointly invested project between China and Myanmar that has gone through scientific verification and strict examination of both sides. Relevant matters arising from the implementation of the project should be handled appropriately through bilateral friendly consultation.”
In fact, anti-Chinese sentiment has been growing in Burma, according to the BBC, and the the Myitsone dam project has become a lightning rod for that resentment. China exploited the void created by international sanctions, and moved rapidly to exploit Burma’s rich natural resources, as well as develop the Myitsone dam.
Burma’s generational Unraveling era
In my 2007 article, “Burma: Growing demonstrations by the ’88 Generation’ raise fears of new slaughter,” I provided a generational history of Burma.
Burma’s last generational crisis war was an extremely bloody ethnic civil war that climaxed in 1958 after intervention by China. As always happens, this crisis war was followed by a Recovery Era in which austere rules and institutions were created with the sole objective of guaranteeing that no such war should ever be allowed to happen again.
Thirty years later, on 8/8/88, Burma had an Awakening Era clima, when hundreds of thousands of students in the “88 generation,” joined by monks and civilians, marched against the military government. Soldiers opened fire on demonstrators with machine guns, resulting in thousands of casualties. In the aftermath, the military government cracked down brutally. They particularly arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of World War II hero Aung San, and kept her under arrest until recently.
When the military government brutally slaughtered thousands of monks and civilians peacefully protesting in 2007, it was widely believed that the 1988 slaughter would be repeated. In fact, a lot of it was repeated, but there was a difference. Burma in 2007 was in a generational Unraveling era, so named because the austere rules and institutions of the Recovery era all unravel.
The unraveling in Burma has been rapid. Aung San Suu Kyi is now free. The military government has been replaced by a civilian government. And Burma is on the verge of releasing some of the more than 2,000 political prisoners held in its jails, a move that is one of the main criteria for the lifting of sanctions against the country, according to Financial Times (Access). President Thein Sein has proposed a labor law allowing trade unions to take industrial action. And the authorities in Rangoon last week allowed an opposition demonstration to commemorate the uprisings of three years ago.
Thus, the suspension of the Myitsone dam project was not an isolated event; it was only the latest action in a series of actions, following the shock of the bloody overreaction to the 2007 demonstrations, that are returning Burma to a more democratic government. The postwar austerity is unraveling completely.
Possibly most significant in this unraveling period is that Burma is clearly trending away from China, signalling the likelihood that Burma will side with India and the west in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war.
Burma Dumps China And Embraces Paris Hilton
In a bizarre twist of events, Burma has dumped its longstanding trading partner China in favor of Paris Hilton. Paris has been a vocal opposent of the Myitsone dam. “I have told President Thein Sein I will open lots of perfume, handbag and shoe factories as long as he stops this dam project and that I’ll tell Obama to drop the sanctions to achieve these goals,” said Paris. The Spoof