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U.S., S. Korea, Japan to build Burmese power plants: reports

(Mizzima) - Burma says it has plans to build more electrical power plants with companies from the United States, Japan and South Korea to cope with the country’s chronic shortage of electricity, official media said on Tuesday.
The Myitsone hydropower dam's electricity was scheduled to be transferred to China, before the project was suspended by President Thein Sein. Photo: Jinghpaw TarGyiMyanmar's Ministry of Electric Power-2 said the power plants would be constructed by General Electric Co. and Caterpillar Co. of the United States; J Power Co. of Japan; and the BKB Co. of South Korea, according to an article in the state-run New Light of Myanmar. The ministry provided no date for the construction to begin.

A 600-Megawatt (MW) coal-fired plant will be build near Rangoon in a joint venture with J Power Co of Japan, and a 500-MW gas-fired power plant will be build in collaboration with BKB Co of South Korea. No details were given for the power plant to be built by the U.S. companies.

The article comes as demonstrations have flared up in Mandalay and other regions of the country, complaining of regular electrical outages and a shortage of power overall.

Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday that Mandalay residents carrying candles gathered near the city’s power station at 7 p.m. on Monday for a second night of protests, demanding officials restore 24-hour electricity after gradual power cuts over the past three months reduced the supply to as little as five hours a day.

Officials dispatched riot trucks to the demonstration, said the article, but allowed it to continue until after 11 p.m., perhaps in response to a new law recently passed that allows public demonstrations.

Mandalay officials held an emergency press conference around 10 p.m. and said that high demand for electricity at the start of the summer and a lack of rainfall needed to generate hydropower from the country’s dams caused the recent blackouts, the article said. Residents demanded to know how much of the region’s electricity was being sold to neighboring China, which has a series of hydropower deals with the government in which electricity is transferred to China.

Three other cities have seen similar demonstrations over electricity in the past two days, including nearby Monywa and Pyay, in the southern part of the country, and Thone Kwa, near Rangoon.

The protests in Mandalay are the country’s largest since the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

On Sunday, state media blamed a national power shortage on attacks by the Kachin Independence Army on four towers that form part of the national power grid in northern Burma’s Shan State.  The KIA denied responsibility for the attacks on the towers.

On Monday, the authorities announced that electricity would be rationed to five or six hours a day in parts of Rangoon with alternating service to areas with concentrations of factories, businesses and the general public.

The New Light of Myanmar article said Burma has 18 hydropower stations, one coal-fired station and 10 gas-fired power stations. They generate a maximum of about 1, 610 MW during the monsoon season and 1,340 MW during the summer.

Of the 1,610 MW, 1,270 MW is generated by hydropower stations when a full storage capacity of water is available during the monsoon.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 May 2012 14:17 )  
The Kachin’s last stand
Since October this year, Burma has been in a state of civil war, with fighting between Burmese military and armed ethnic rebels. The ruling junta started a crackdown on these armed groups.

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