Fri 30 Sep 2011
Filed under: International
Newly leaked document reveals support for opponents of proposed Myitsone dam, widely seen as a Chinese project.The US embassy in Rangoon funded some of the civil society groups in the Burmese region that forced the government to suspend a controversial Chinese dam on the Irrawaddy river, according to a US diplomatic cable.
The January 2010 cable on the $3.6bn (£2.3bn) Myitsone dam project noted that local groups had “voiced strong opposition to the project on economic, environmental and cultural grounds and have organised grassroots campaigns to rally others to their cause”.
The cable, signed by then US charge d’affaires, Larry Dinger, went on to say: “An unusual aspect of this case is the role grassroots organisations have played in opposing the dam, which speaks to the growing strength of civil society groups in Kachin state, including recipients of embassy small grants.”
Dinger said that although Burma had launched a number of hydropower projects to address its acute electricity shortages, the Myitsone dam was widely seen as a Chinese project, with China the principal beneficiary.
“Given past evidence from foreign investments in Burma’s energy sector, it is very likely, as many locals believe, that both construction of the dam and the energy it produces will primarily benefit Chinese companies and consumers, rather than Burmese,” he said.
Presciently, he added: “Dam-related social unrest is a possibility in light of the already-tense political situation in Kachin state and the dislocations the project is expected to cause.”