DVB Multimedia Group

Suu Kyi to sign deals with China on bridge, hospitals

Under a new agreement between Burma and China, a bridge will be built at Kunlong, linking the Kokang Self-Administered Zone with the rest of Shan State.

China and Burma are set to sign deals to build a strategic bridge near their border and two hospitals in the Southeast Asian country, a Burmese official said on Thursday, as leader Aung San Suu Kyi meets high-level officials in Beijing.

Suu Kyi, who is barred from the presidency by a junta-drafted constitution but holds several government posts including that of foreign minister, arrived in China on Wednesday evening.

She is scheduled to meet Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday and President Xi Jinping on Friday, with the fate of a suspended Chinese-funded hydropower project in northern Burma in the balance.

“Grant agreements will be signed on the construction of two hospitals and a bridge between the two sides during this visit,” Aye Aye Soe, deputy director-general at Burma‘s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Reuters.

The two hospitals will be built in Burma‘s two largest cities, Rangoon and Mandalay, she said.

The bridge is aimed at improving transport and communication between the countries and will be built in Kunlong town, 32 km (20 miles) from the border in northeastern Burma.

Kunlong is on the way to a border checkpoint and near the Kokang region where an ethnic Chinese rebel group fought Burma‘s military last year.

Aye Aye Soe declined to give further details, including the terms of financing of the projects or the timeframe.

The visit is Suu Kyi’s first major diplomatic foray as de facto leader, after a new government took power in April following her National League for Democracy’s sweeping election victory in November.

The China-funded $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project was planned for the confluence of two rivers that form the Irrawaddy River, but has been stalled since 2011, when former President Thein Sein suspended the project amid widespread opposition on environmental grounds.

China has been pushing for work to restart on the dam, which under the original plans would have sent 90 percent of its power to China.

A Burmese government commission reviewing the project — as well as other proposed hydropower dams, including several on the Salween River — is expected to report by 11 November.