400 Villagers Forced to Attend “Celebration”

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The Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization (Sapawa) issued a press release publicizing today’s forced “celebration” by the Burmese military junta for the launch of construction on the Tasang Dam in Shan State in northeastern Burma. Says Sapawa, “over 400 villagers are being forced by the Burmese authorities [into attending].”

I Press Release: March 29, 2007 | Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization (Sapawa) |

With over 400 villagers being forced by Burmese military authorities to attend the official “celebration” ceremony today to launch construction of the Tasang Dam in Shan State, the Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization (Sapawa) urges the Thai company MDX, which is hosting the ceremony, to pull out from the project immediately before becoming further complicit in the abuses linked to the controversial dam plans.

Local six-wheel trucks have been commandeered, and at least 400 villagers, including schoolchildren, from Mong Ton and Mong Pan are being trucked to the dam-site, where they are being forced to welcome high-ranking Burmese military officials arriving by helicopter.

Villagers risk imprisonment if they do not obey orders to attend such ceremonies. Unfortunately, such use of force is not new to the villagers in the area. Those attending the celebration today include
villagers already forcibly relocated from their homes north of the dam-site. In the past ten years, the Burma Army has relocated over 60,000 villagers from areas adjoining the dam site and the projected flood zone. Villagers found in hiding who have remained in the vicinity have been tortured, raped and killed.

“These villagers have already been driven at gunpoint from their homes and lands. Now they are being forced to clap and cheer while MDX joins hands with their oppressors to construct a dam that will flood their homes for ever,” said Sai Sai, spokesperson of Sapawa.

Since 1998, the Thai contracting company MDX has been preparing for the construction of the Tasang dam and on April 3, 2006, MDX and Burma’s regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), signed an MoU for the joint development of the 7,110 megawatt dam.

“MDX has been working in this area for almost ten years. How can they be so blinded by profit that they don’t see the abuses going on around them? We urge them to open their eyes and pull out now, before they get as much blood on their hands as the SPDC itself,” said Sai Sai.

MDX has turned to China for investors in the project. Increased Chinese involvement was highlighted earlier this month, when the China Gezhouba Group announced on March 15 that it had won a contract for part of the initial dam construction. Recent reports have also indicated that the Yunnan Power Grid Corporation has visited the dam site.

For further information on the Tasang Dam, see the report Warning Signs published by Sapawa on www.salweenwatch.org.

Contact: E-mail: [email protected], Tel: +66 84 364 5778

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