Beijing: Beijing has urged Myanmar to protect
the rights of Chinese companies after the government halted
construction of a USD 3.6 billion China-backed mega dam
following public opposition to the project.
Myanmar President Thein Sein on Friday ordered work on
the Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River to stop -- a decision
hailed by the United States as a sign the military-backed
leadership was listening to its people.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei on
Saturday urged "relevant countries to guarantee the lawful and
legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies".
"The Myitsone power station is a jointly invested project
between China and Myanmar" and it has been "rigorously
examined by both sides", Hong said in a statement.
Hong called for both sides to "properly handle" the
matter through "friendly consultations".
China is Myanmar`s second-largest trading partner and
biggest foreign investor, and the comments are a rare public
display of discord between them.
The dam in the northern state of Kachin was backed by
energy giant China Power Investment Corp and has attracted
opposition from pro-democracy and environmentalists testing
the limits of their freedom under the new nominally civilian
In March Myanmar`s junta handed power to a new government
whose ranks are filled with former generals.
Green groups have warned the dam project would inundate
an area about the size of Singapore, submerging dozens of
villages, displacing at least 10,000 people and irreversibly
damaging one of the world`s most bio-diverse areas.
Friday`s announcement marked an unexpected U-turn by the
Myanmar regime. Local media had quoted the minister for
electric power as saying last month that construction of the
dam would go ahead despite public concerns.
For the people of Kachin, the Myitsone dam has come to
symbolise the struggles they have faced for decades as a
marginalised ethnic group in the repressed nation under almost
half a century of military rule.
Activists have urged China Power Investment to remove
workers and equipment from the site and to allow local
villagers who were forced to relocate to go home.
The Burma Rivers Network, a network of groups
representing dam-affected communities, has also called for six
other mega dams planned on the Irrawaddy`s tributaries to be
In recent weeks fighting has erupted between ethnic
rebels and government troops in the area.
In April a series of bomb blasts at the site of the
Myitsone Dam destroyed cars and buildings and left one man