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Kachins forced to oust Kachin villagers for dam project

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) –  In a cruel twist to its high handed ways, the  Burmese military junta is using forced labour from among  Kachin people for the demolition and relocation of villages for the Myitsone dam project site in north Kachin State, a Kachin environment group has alleged.

The local Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) ordered commissioning of at least 1,060 persons from Myitkyina and Wai Maw townships this month to be sent to carry out the relocation of the villages about 27 miles north of Myitkyina.

The Kachin Development Network Group (KDNG) Chairman Awng Wah said the order was issued by the TPDC on May 1, which called for people from 48 Wards in Wai Maw Township and 58 Wards from Myitkyina Township at the rate of 10 people from each ward.

“Their works entails demolishing houses and churches,” he told Mizzima.

The order points out that the security of the forced labourers will vest with concerned departments, People’s Militias and Border Guard Forces (BGF) under the command of Northern Command headquarters.

“Kachin labourers will be reluctant to demolish the houses of their fellow Kachin people. So they threatened them under the guise of providing security,” said Awng Wah who saw the order.

The former ‘New Democratic Army-Kachin’ (NDA-K), which has been transformed to the BGF and the breakaway KIO faction People’s Militia led by U Lasan Awng are now under the command of the junta in Kachin State.

Myitsone dam project with a 766 square mile area is as big as one third of Puta-O Township in the northern tip of Kachin State.

About 60 villages including Tan Phaye, Ma Zuap, Dau Pan, Kham Buu, Guay Du and the villages east and west of the River Irrawaddy will be relocated. The population here is 15,000 in about 1,500 houses, KDNG said.

They will be relocated to new settlements built by the Asia World Company between Kyein Kha Ran and Lone Kar Zuap villages, 20-miles north of Myitkyina west of Irrawaddy River. Over 100 houses have already been built in this new settlement. The villages east of River Irrawaddy are to be relocated to the area near Wai Maw Township. But the number of houses built in this area by Asia World is not yet known.

Initially, the local authorities ordered only two wards in Tan Pha Ye village to be relocated. But now they have ordered relocation of all wards. Villagers have been ordered through their Ward Heads to get ready to provide one labourer from each household for work to be done in their own village, a villager from Tan Pha Ye said.

In the wake of the serial bomb blasts on April 17, the relocation of the villages has been expedited along with commissioning of forced labour. Over 20 suspects are still being held at Myitkyina No. 1 Police Station lockup in connection with the bomb blasts. A sketch of the suspected bomber has been pasted in many places in Myitkyina by authorities, KDNG sources said.

As of early 2007, the Myitsone Dam Project is being constructed and implemented by China Power Investment Corporation, China Southern Power Grid Corporation and Asia World Company.

Two dams will be built on Malikha River and five dams will be constructed on May Kha River in the ‘Myitsone’ (confluence of two tributaries) Dam Project, which will have a generating capacity of 3,600 MW. Besides the Myitsone Project, the Chi Bwe and Tar Pein dam projects are being built in Kachin State.

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Maykha and Malikha rivers

This file photo, taken 21 years ago, shows the confluence of the Maykha and Malikha rivers. Photo: Mizzima

Myitsone Dam project

An artist's conception of the controversial Myitsone Dam project on the Irrawaddy River, which is the subject of increasing protests by environmental groups.