News / Asia

Burma Government Brandishes Democratic Credentials With Suspended Power Projects

General Min Aung Hlaing (L), Supreme Commander of Burma's armed forces, shakes hands with Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra during his visit to Thailand, at the Government House in Bangkok, January 10, 2012.
General Min Aung Hlaing (L), Supreme Commander of Burma's armed forces, shakes hands with Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra during his visit to Thailand, at the Government House in Bangkok, January 10, 2012.
Daniel Schearf

Burma’s new government is winning cheers from environmental activists for halting large-scale power plants following public criticism. Political analysts say, in suspending the projects, the nominally civilian government is looking to distance itself from military rule.

Burma’s electricity authority this week abruptly cancelled plans for a 4,000 megawatt coal-powered electricity plant at its Dawei special economic zone.

The multi-billion dollar development zone is along the Indian Ocean in southern Burma and will include a deep sea port and oil refinery.

The coal power plant was proposed as part of the project and led by Italian-Thai Development.

Although activists welcomed the cancellation, the director of the company's Burma arm, U Thin Aung, says it caught him off guard. He says the proposal was only at the conceptual stage and that authorities gave the company no warning of the cancellation.

"It’s a great surprise because we haven’t even applied for this 4,000 megawatt coal-fire power plant. I don’t know why they have to cancel what which we have not even applied," said U Thin Aung.

Burma officials said the decision to scrap the plant was made in response to public concerns about its environmental impact.

Activists have long criticized Burma’s military authorities for widespread exploitation of the country’s natural resources with little public input or concern for the environment.

The cancellation, announced in Rangoon, came as Burma’s military commander General Min Aung Hlaing paid an official visit to Thailand.

Political analysts say the timing may not be a coincidence, as Burma’s nominally civilian government wants to paint an image of being independent from the military.

"I think now the present, new government has been facing you know such kind of consequences and decisions made by previous regimes," said Aung Thu Nyein, who is with the Thailand-based Vahu Development Institute. "And, at the same time when there is a small opening, you know, people, you know, has been starting their movement, what they have been suffering or what they are concerning. I think, kind of a popular campaigns are gaining momentum at this moment."

The government of President Thein Sein replaced decades of overt military rule after controversial 2010 elections that guaranteed the military a role in government.

But Thein Sein, despite being a general in the former government, surprised critics with a series of reforms and engaging in dialogue with the opposition.

The plant is the second mega power project that his government abruptly halted after public outcry.

In September, President Thein Sein suspended the Chinese-backed Myitsone hydropower dam in the country’s north.

The dam project was criticized for its lack of transparency, public consultation and potential environmental impact.

The Myitsone and Dawei projects would also displace thousands of villagers.

Aung Thu Nyein says President Thein Sein wants to present an image of Burma as a responsive democracy, despite its military backing. But he notes there are many other hydropower dams still planned without public input.

“If the government is quite serious about preservation of the environment, they need to adopt a kind of a laws and regulations for making EIA and SIA assessments for every project in the country," said Aung Thu Nyein. "But, until now there is no such kind of environmental impact assessment and social impact assessment requirement for any projects in the country.”

Authorities say they are considering allowing a smaller 400 megawatt coal powered plant at Dawei or a less polluting alternative, natural gas.

Although the decision on the Dawei power plant at least scales back coal power, the Myitsone dam is only temporarily suspended and could one day go ahead, as planned.

However, Aung Thu Nyein says that is not likely as there would be a huge public backlash.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid