• Courtesy of Salween Watch

Riverside residents and refugees join forces to oppose Salween dams

national March 14, 2018 19:15

By The Nation

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More than 800 Thai and Karen residents living close to the Salween River in Mae Sariang of Mae Hong Son province and the Ituta refugee camp in Myanmar’s Karen State jointly held a “No-Dam” campaign on Wednesday.

It was held on a sand dune by the river opposite the camp on the occasion of International Day of Action for Rivers, also known as World Dam Day, on March 14.

Nor Ter Ler Puay, from the Karen Student Network Group, said dam projects on the Salween would affect the lives of internally displaced people in the camp, as well as other residents living along the river. 

A number of Karens, she said, had suffered from fighting between Myanmar government and minority forces, resulting in them fleeing and ending up in the camp. The dam projects would threaten their living conditions even further, she said.

For instance, the Hatgyui dam project had already prompted the government to send troops into villages, prompting people to leave for the displaced-persons’ camp, never to return home, she said.

Niwat Roikaew, the Rak Chiang Khong Conservation Group’s chairman, campaigning for the health of the Mekong and Salween rivers, called on people to stand against threats to their rivers. 

He said that, during the past 20 years, the Mekong had suffered from development projects including dams, which had caused irreversible impacts to the river. Niwat said he would like to share the plight and give moral support to Salween residents in their fight to protect the river.

Pol Seng Twa, a director of the Karen Network for the Environment, said a ceasefire agreement that the government had made with some minority groups would show the international community that peace was being re-introduced to Myanmar. However, the fact was that military personnel had forced people out of several villages due to development projects.

Pol Seng Twa said there had been an attempt to declare a “Salween Peace Park” in the Karen State to ensure and promote peace while preserving the environment and Karen culture.

Karen River Watch, meanwhile, has also issued a statement denouncing the military operation and the development projects on the Salween, and called on the ruling National League for Democracy to show its support.

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