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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

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