Thursday, 14 November 2019

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70 youths held over dam blasts, Kachin group says


Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – More than 70 youth activists have been arrested in a two-day sweep by authorities in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, in the wake of the Myitsone dam project site bombings, a Kachin social network group said.

In the first group, more than 20 youths were arrested and in the second, more than 50 arrested, on Sunday and Monday, the Kachin Democratic Network Group (KDNG), a pressure group based on the Sino-Burmese border protesting against the dam project said, citing local authorities. 

Most of those held are members of the Education and Economic Development for Youth (EEDY), the youth wing of the biggest Kachin ethnic ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). 

The military regime had not yet disclosed the reason for the recent arrests but Kachin organisations believed the goal was to question those detained over possible involvement in the blasts.

At least 10 bombs exploded leaving one Chinese worker injured on April 17 at the Myitsone hydropower dam project site near the May Kha-Mali Kha river confluence, the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River. 

A KIO officer said many people had already been arrested in connection with these blasts and some had been released. 

KIO secretary Dr. La Ja had visited the junta’s northern command headquarters in Myitkyina and met Command chief Major General Soe Win on May 19, demanding the release of all detained Kachin students. 

“We told him to release these students if they are innocent or if they were connected with the blasts to let us meet them,” a KIO officer said. “We also demanded they be allowed access to defence counsel.” 

“We told them to let these students face trial in accordance with the law and not to [continue to] detain them without trial”, the KIO officer said. 

KIO formed the EEDY in 2003 based on ethnic interests under the command and supervision of Colonel Gwan Mau. Basic military training had been given to members in seven intakes of recruits and more than 2,000 had completed the course, a KIO source said. 

Opposition groups have criticised the arrests over the dam bombings by unknown perpetrators as a pretext for pressure tactics against the KIO, which continues to reject the junta’s offer of bringing its troops into the Border Guard Force (BGF) under Burmese army command. 

The controversial Myitsone hydropower dam project was started in early 2007 under a deal between the Chinese and Burmese governments. Construction of the massive dam three kilometres downstream from the May Kha-Mali Kha river confluence led to the forced relocation of 15,000 residents from at least 60 villages.  

The project is being built by the junta’s Ministry of Industry No. 1 in association with junta crony company, Asia World, and the China Power Investment Corporation, one of the five largest state-run power producers. The 3,600 Megawatts electricity generated will be sold to supply China’s Yunnan province.

Local residents and environmentalists are protesting against the project over heritage, wildlife, ecological and seismic concerns. The site lies less than 100 kilometres from the Sagaing fault line, posing a risk to basin inhabitants if an earthquake weakens the structure or causes landslides in the reservoir. If the dam broke during a quake, it would endanger hundred of thousands of people downstream in Myitkyina.

 

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