Over 1,000 Chinese workers in Burma’s Chibwe hydropower project

International Rivers has picked up this article, written by KNG and dated 13 January, from the Kachin News website.

To expedite the hydropower project in N’Mai River at Chibwe city in
Burma’s northern Kachin state, about 1,000 Chinese workers have been inducted in the project site since late December, 2008, said local sources. (…) The Chinese workers are employed by China’s
China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) and they are working together with about 300 Burmese workers of the Burma-Asia World Company which is owned by Burma’s former drug king Lo Hsing Han, residents of Chibwe said. (…)

Mr. Awng Wa, an anti-dam activist and chairman of Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) based on the Sino-Burma border told KNG today, “Chinese companies working under CPI in Chibwe hydropower project are also taking out valuable minerals from the project areas to China while working for the hydropower project.” (…)

Owners of restaurants in Chibwe are also seriously suffering and are
about to close their shops because the workers in Asia World Company eat daily at their restaurants without paying for the past six months to a year.  On the other hand, owners of house construction stores have to provide the materials demanded by the company without getting payment for a long time.

The shop owners are unable to complain to the CPI and Asia World
Company because they are strongly backed by the Burmese ruling junta, added local residents.

Chibwe hydropower project is one of a total seven hydropower projects in Mali and N’Mai Rivers in Kachin state which is being built by the CPI and Asia World Company of the junta since 2006.  The Chibwe hydropower project will generate a total of 2,000 MW of electricity.

According to sources from the two companies, the Chibwe hydropower project is being implemented under a 20-year project.

What surprised me about this article is that there are anti-dam groups operating on the Burma-China border. What, NGOs in Burma? I have imagined that border region to be ultramilitarized and ultrapoor, not the sort of place you’d have lots of space for dissidence or “civil society” (though Chinese merchants in Boten, who had come over from there, say that the environment was more “modern” than in Laos). So I am very curious about this “anti-dam group.” This would be a great place to check what a people who have (or so it is said in Western accounts) been pressganged and terrorised by various armies and drug lords for long actually think about development imported from China. This article certainly suggests that military-style requisitioning is still in fashion, to the benefit of the Chinese managers now.  

Another point to note is that Lo Hsing Han, by the sound of his name, is probably Chinese; but is he a former KMT or a former Red Guard/BCP? Guo Xiaolin in her work on Burma-China relations (see Bibliography, Working Paper 1) does point out that a number of former Red Guards went over the border to aid the Burmese Communist Party and then became major drug players.

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