Silence over Myanmar dam


Aung San Suu Kyi and Xi Jinping meet in Beijing. Source: YouTube

China and Myanmar say they will forge closer ties as “blood brothers”, as State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi prepared to leave Beijing, pledging to boost trade and border cooperation, where fighting between Nay Pyi Taw and ethnic minority rebels has ground on for decades.

There was no mention of progress on the suspended US$3.6-billion Myitsone dam project in Kachin State, which was primarily funded by Chinese energy firms but is deeply unpopular at home.

China has been pressing for its resumption ever since it was surprisingly shelved in 2011 by former president Thein Sein.

Suu Kyi confirmed that a committee was reviewing the project, without saying what she thought the suggestion would be.

Myitsone, originally designed to supply most of its electricity to China, was seen as emblematic of China’s dominance over Myanmar.

But now Beijing is on a diplomatic charm offensive with its southern neighbour while Suu Kyi has extended warm words about embracing Myanmar’s top trading partner and investor.

President Xi Jinping pledged to “play a constructive role in promoting Myanmar’s peace process”, the official Xinhua reported. “China attaches great importance to developing relations with Myanmar.”

Achieving peace and unity among different groups within her country was the most important aim, Suu Kyi said.

Suu Kyi told the media at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse: “Without peace, there can be no sustained development.”

She is planning to hold the so-called 21st-century Panglong conference on August 31 to bring almost all the rebel armies and numerous political parties to help establish a peace deal and lay the groundwork for a new constitution.

“The peace process, of course, is our process and the people of Myanmar must build peace in our country,” said Suu Kyi, adding that she believed that China was a good neighbour and would do every thing possible to promote the peace process.

On the economy, Suu Kyi said job creation, energy development and agricultural reform were vital.

“With high unemployment in the country, Myanmar needs to create jobs for people so that they can use their own ability to earn a living and live a dignified and secure life,” the de facto prime minister said.

About 70 per cent of the population depended on agriculture for their livelihood, she added.

“Unity among different ethnic groups of the country is greatly desired,” she added.

“This is what my father [Japanese wartime ally Aung San] would have desired and what we all desire, not because it is part of his legacy, but because it is what we need for our country,” Suu Kyi said.