Myitsone Dam Cancellation an International Media Event

By: 
Ian Elwood
Tang Hpre near the Irrawaddy Myitsone dam construction site, Burma
Tang Hpre near the Irrawaddy Myitsone dam construction site, Burma

The cancellation of the Myitsone dam project has grabbed international headlines this week, the decision prompted by the new president, Thein Sein. The president said that the dam was against the will of the people, according to The Economist.

This a good sign for Burmese civil society and local communities. Will this victory be a new chapter for local partner groups in Burma? The following ABC News interview with International Rivers campaigner Pianporn Deetes, goes into greater detail.


Human Rights Watch has hailed the cancellation as a step toward reforming Burmese government, citing "uncharacteristically open debate" on the part of government and state run Burmese media. Political activist Aung San Suu Kyi drew more attention to the issue by meeting with high-level officials.

The LA Times and Japan Times both seemed to revel in watching Burmese social movements "ruffle feathers" at China Power Investment Corporation. Perhaps emboldened by the Myitsone victory, activists are demanding a halt to a similarly destructive Chinese managed pipeline project, according to The Irrawaddy

A potential lawsuit over the halting of the dam is being used as leverage to make the project plans public record, according to Mizzima News. The Sydney Morning Herald also weighs in on the lawsuit.

Thein Sein has made efforts to maintain a cordial relationship with China, despite his decision, according to The Irrawaddy. The Jakarta Globe issued an interesting opinion piece, speculating that Burmese officials rebuffed China based on a sense of national sovereignty, rather than deference to the Burmese people or impacts of the dam.

A Reuters Analysis situates China and Burma in a relationship of mutual "trust and suspicion," with the dam project likely to be a barging chip in a larger game for the long-term development of the region.

Burma Rivers Network denies the allegations that the project cancellation was a surprise to China Power Investment, and that although the project may not have been cancelled due to a genuine democratic process on the part of the Burmese military government, the continuation of the project would only harm local communities and benefit the government without adequate distribution of benefits to local communities.

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