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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs