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Two local Kachin women, who have been involved in anti-Myitsone dam activities, say they have had their rice rations cut by China Power Investment Corporation (CPI), the Chinese backers of the Irrawaddy River hydropower project.
Daw Jah Khawng and Daw Lu Rah, originally from Myitsone but who were relocated to Aung Myin Thar model village to make way for the mega-project, said last week that they and their families have been told by the local rice distributor that they had been struck from the list of recipients for monthly rice rations.
As part of a compensation package, displaced Myitsone villagers were reportedly pledged a rice ration of seven and a half viss (12.25 kg) of rice per head each month.
According to Daw Jah Khawng, the rice distributor informed them one day before ration day that the pair and their families were no longer on the list to receive sacks of rice, the main staple for the more than 2,000 displaced villagers at Aung Myin Thar.
“A clerk came and told us that CPI had cut our rice ration on the evening of 24 June,” she told DVB on Friday. “She said the instruction had been passed down by her superiors.”
Daw Jah Khawng and Daw Lu Rah said that, between them, they have more than 20 family members including grandchildren who depend on rice rations, because the model town has no land to grow crops.
Though the staff of CPI did not notify them why their rations were being refused, the women said they believe that it is due to their involvement in activities calling for the complete cancellation of the dam project.
More than 300 families from Maliyan, Tang Hpre and Myitsone villages were relocated to the purpose-built village of Aung Myin Thar beginning in 2009.
But according to a local Kachin NGO, Mungchying Rawt Jat, which was founded in September 2012 by farmers directly affected by government development projects in Kachin State, the houses in the model village are substandard, and many residents are suffering from ill health.
“The housing at Aung Myin Thar was built by CPI and Asia World Company,” Mungchying Rawt Jat reported. “Although they told the villagers they would build them better houses than before, the new houses are poor quality. The roofs have blown off and leak during rain; houses are tilting, and the floors have been flooded during the past two years. There is no land for local people to sustain a livelihood. People are suffering from diarrhea, malaria, influenza, paralysis, and mental problems in the camp, and their health condition is getting worse.”
CPI did not respond to DVB’s request for comment on the case of Daw Jah Khawng and Daw Lu Rah.
The Myitsone Dam project, or Seven Dams project, was contracted between 2001 and 2016 to Burmese conglomerate Asia World and Chinese state energy firm CPI to construct a 3,600 to 6,000 MW hydropower project, which would mostly produce electricity for China.
It was beset by protests, both locally and across Burma, as many feared the dams would adversely affect the Irrawaddy, Burma’s main waterway, which millions rely upon for livelihoods, transport and water.
In September 2011, Burmese President Thein Sein announced the project would be suspended during his tenure. But although construction has halted and Chinese workers repatriated, CPI and Asia World have said they remain confident the project will recommence once this presidential term ends in 2015.