Suu Kyi to discuss frozen dam and hydroelectric power project on landmark China trip

By Esther Htusan, Associated Press

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves for a high-profile trip to China on Wednesday to discuss the fate of a jointly built dam and hydroelectric power plant that Myanmar put on hold amid questions over which country will benefit from it.

Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi greets leaders of armed ethnic groups during their meeting at a hotel Friday, July 29, 2016, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Senior leaders of two armed ethnic groups, United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Mongla Army, met Friday at new capital with Suu Kyi and will meet Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing attempting to construct trust between government and their groups for the country's peace processes. Suu Kyi leaves for China on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

 

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves for a high-profile trip to China on Wednesday to discuss the fate of a jointly built dam and hydroelectric power plant that Myanmar put on hold amid questions over which country will benefit from it.

According to officials, the five-day visit will tackle a new and delicate era in relations, including development aid and Myanmar's upcoming complex peace process involving the government, the military and ethnic armed groups.

"The intention of the five-day visit is to build better relationship, and of course China will definitely talk about continuing the hydroelectric dam project but it won't be our priority of the visit," said Aye Aye Soe, the deputy director of Myanmar Foreign Affairs' Political Department.

It is Suu Kyi's first visit to Beijing since her National League for Democracy party took office in March.

The former military-backed government of President Thein Sein suspended work on the Myitsone Dam in northern Myanmar in 2012, because 90 percent of electricity would benefit China. Environmental concerns and the project's impact on local communities also fed public anger over the construction of the dam.

Last week, President Htin Kyaw set up a 20-member commission to study and review dam projects on the Irrawaddy River, including Myitsone.

The chairman of the commission and the deputy speaker of the upper house, T Khun Myat, told reporters on Tuesday that the commission will make field visits and inspect the project's agreements.

The dam is to be built by the Upstream Ayeyawady Confluence Basin Hydropower Company, a joint venture between the China Power Investment Corp., Myanmar's Ministry of Electric Power and the Asia World Company, which has links to the former military regime.

"We will only decide after our commission has reviewed the project and Myanmar government (will) probably come up with a solution by then," said Aye Aye Soe.

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