Saturday, July 22, 2017

President U Htin Kyaw may discuss Myitsone dam during China visit

President U HtinKyaw is likely to discuss the Myitsone dam issue during his state visit to China that started yesterday.

 A file photo shows a lady trying to moor her wooden boat along the Ayeyawady River near Myitsone dam project, in Myitkyina, Kachin State. Photo - EPA A file photo shows a lady trying to moor her wooden boat along the Ayeyawady River near Myitsone dam project, in Myitkyina, Kachin State. Photo - EPA

The five-day visit, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jin Ping, is the first for U Htin Kyaw since he assumed office in April this year.

State Counsellor’s office Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe, Minister for Commerce U Than Myint, Minister for Construction U Win Khaing and Deputy Minister U Kyaw Tin are accompanying the president.

The president will discuss bilateral issues with Chinese officials, said Foreign Affairs Director General U Kyaw Zay Ya.

When asked if the president would discuss the Myitsone dam issue and peace process with his Chinese counterparts, U Kyaw Zay Ya said the possibility was not ruled out.

“We have to prepare everything relating to bilateral issues including the Myitsone dam and on the peace process. If these matters are brought to the table, then they will be discussed,” he said.

The president will also visit major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Kunming, he said.   

Former president U Thein Sein, during his term, suspended the Myitsone dam after facing widespread protests against the continued construction of the dam. Construction has remained at a standstill since then.

Before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s official visit in August of 2016, a commission was formed with experts to assess the implications of the construction. Though the commission has submitted an interim report to the president, it has yet to work out a final recommendation.

However, U Kyaw Zay Ya stressed that the president will not decide on the fate of the Myitsone dam issue during his China visit.

“The decision will depend on the Myitsone commission report and recommendation,” he said.

During a press conference this week, when asked by a reporter if China had abandoned the Myitsone dam project, Chinese foreign affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said her government will cooperate with Myanmar on the matter.

“The Myitsone hydropower station is a commercial project that has gone through the whole process of study and approvals. We will stay in communication with the Myanmar side to properly address problems and difficulties in the spirit of cooperation and maintain and continue with the development of bilateral cooperation that will benefit peoples of both countries” she said.

Citing several sources, Reuters news agency reported that China would abandon its plan to resume the construction of the dam. However, through several diplomatic channels, China is reported to have pushed the Myanmar government to resume construction of the dam.

The Myitsone dam is a US$3.6 billion mega hydropower project and is located at the confluence of Mali and N’mai rivers in Kachin state. Construction began in 2009 but was suspended in September of 2011.