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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More