09/30/2011, 00.00
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Burmese President stops construction of Myitsone dam

In a letter to Parliament, Thein Sein stopped a project that is "contrary" to the will of the people and legislators. Aung San Suu Kyi, environmentalists and Catholic leaders are opposed to a facility that would have a "devastating" impact on the ecosystem. Yesterday in Washington meetings between Burma's Foreign Minister and senior officials.
Yangon (AsiaNews/agencies) – The President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, ordered the suspension of the construction of Myitsone dam, in the northern state of Kachin, a Burmese-Chinese joint project that has sparked the protests of environmentalists and the civilian population. In a letter read this morning in Parliament, he stressed that the .6 billion power plant is "contrary" to the will of the people and legislators. In recent days, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi participated in a protest in the streets against the project, a rare event in the former Burma, where government and military retain power by force, suppressing internal dissent.

During the event, the Nobel Peace laureate said that the dam will cause the forced displacement of 12,000 people in 63 different villages. Together with the opposition, including members of minority groups and environmentalists, Catholic and Christian Burmese leaders have joined the protest campaign against the mega-project wanted by Beijing and Naypyidaw. The power plant at Myitsone would be a source of "irreparable damage" to the ecosystem along the most important river in Burma, the Irrawaddy. In addition, most of the electricity produced would feed Chinese enterprises across the border, while only a small part is for domestic consumption by the Burmese people.

A parliamentary official clarified the content of the "message" sent by Thein Sein to the lower house, consisting of ten points. One of them states that "the construction of the dam over the Irrawaddy will be set aside for the duration of the current government." Among the reasons, the fact that the dam is "contrary to the will of the people." According to some commentators, the president's decision represents a "victory for Aung San Suu Kyi", who expended herself greatly to stop the project. The decision, which undermines Beijing's interests in the area, is a "rare step against China," which remains the largest trading partner and defender of the junta at the international level.

Meanwhile, diplomatic work continues between United States and Myanmar, after years marked by a chill in relations, accompanied by economic and trade sanctions. Yesterday in Washington, an official meeting was held between Maung Lwin Wunn, Burmese Foreign Minister, and senior officials from the U.S. State Department. Reviving its request for greater democracy and respect for human rights in Myanmar, the U.S. government appreciates the "recent developments" and confirms the "double-track" policy with Naypyidaw, which aims at a common political commitment, while maintaining - for now - the sanctions.
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