Energy Projects Must Be Part of Burma’s Peace Negotiations

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By Khoon Kalai Free/Kantarawaddy Times

Discussions about the impact of mega energy projects during peace negotiations are necessary because how and where these projects are administered has implications for the entire peace process, according to the Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center (ENAC). ENAC’s new report, ‘Challenging Myanmar’s Centralized Energy Model’, said hydro-power and other energy projects are tied to the country’s armed struggle.

“Mega-projects are located in the conflict zones. If these projects continue, armed conflict is unavoidable,” Dr Pannya Mon, ENAC’s executive director, said during the report’s launch this Tuesday (September 22). Discussions about who controls the land and natural resources must be included in the Union Peace Conference.

At least 10 hydroelectric dam projects are located in Kachin Independence Organization/Army’s (KIO/A) territory. Ywar Thit Dam is located in an area controlled by Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).

The Hatgyi Dam is in Karen National Union’s territory and Mongton Dam (Ta Sang Dam) is in areas controlled by the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS/SSA) and Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA).

In addition, the Shwe Gas pipeline was built between the coastal area of Rakhine State in Burma and China’s Yunnan Province. It passes through areas of the country controlled by Arakan Army, KIO/A, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, RCSS/SSA, SSPP/SSA and various People’s Militia Forces.

When KNPP signed its bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government in 2012, part of the agreement was that the development of mega-projects would cease until durable peace and rule of law are firmly established.Khu Oo Reh, KNPP’s deputy chair, said in the report that civil society organizations and Karenni media interviewed residents affected by the Ywar Thit Dam within three months of its ceasefire.

“In fact, locals didn’t know Ywar Thit Dam was even being planned. They weren’t provided any information about the dam project, so I can confidently say there was zero transparency about its implementation.

“KNPP has not signed the country’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, despite facing pressure to join by the Burma Army and the government.

The report said Burma’s current energy management plan is an incendiary for the country’s 70 years of civil war. And called for a “new federal union” that would allow “states and regions” to use their own resources to develop energy solutions that are “equitable, faster and cheaper” and “close to their populations.”

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