Relocated villagers at Burmese dam site cannot return home



The Myitsone Dam project in Kachin State has been suspended, but Tanhpre villagers who were forced to relocate have been ordered to sign a pledge not to return to their villages.

On Saturday, the head of Myitkyina District told Tanhpre villagers not to try to return home and had them sign a pledge, according to a resident.

A resident said, “The district head came and held a meeting. He said although there is possibility that we can work in farming again in the Tanhpre village area, we must not live there. The next day, the authorities went from house to house in the village and forced us to sign the pledge.”

The day before, a group of Tanhpre villagers organized a prayer ceremony related to the suspension of the Myitsone Dam project. Invited writers, scholars and 88-Generation students attended the prayer ceremony as invited guests, because they had campaigned to have the dam cancelled. Some speakers said that if the authorities try to restart work on the dam, they would again work to have it cancelled.

The next day, the authorities ordered villagers not to return to Tanhpre village.

“The three villages beside the Malikha River were bulldozed for the project,” a Tanhpre villager said. “But, as for the Tanhpre Village, they bulldozed only along the river, so we can do hillside farming again. Villagers from other villages also want to return to their village if possible.”

About 1,100 people lived in 187 houses in Tanhpre village, located about 26 miles from Myitkyina. Most of the villagers do farming, gardening or provide services for tourists. The Myitsone Dam project site is located at an edge of Tanhpre village.

In 2010, companies that were carrying out the project built a new village, Aungmyintha, 10 miles from the villages, to house relocated villagers.

Four families in Tanhpre refused to move to Aungmyintha and are still living in the village.

The soil in the new village is not suitable for growing crops, residents said, and the new houses were built with poor quality wood.

The Chinese workers on the Myitsone project are still living in the workers’ quarters located south of Aungmyintha village. Workers with a Burmese company, Asia World, are also living in the same area, according to residents. In September 2011, the dam project was postponed by an order issued by President Thein Sein.


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