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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                   1 October  2011 

Myanmar suspends dam

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Myanmar's president on Friday ordered a halt to construction of a controversial US$3.6 billion mega dam following rare public opposition to the Chinese-backed hydropower project.

President Thein Sein, whose government has recently shown signs of reaching out to its opponents, said in a message to parliament in the capital Naypyidaw that work on the project in northern Kachin state would be suspended.

"We have to respect the will of the people as our government is elected by the people," he said.

"We have a responsibility to solve the worries of the people so we will stop construction of the Myitsone Dam during our current government."

In March the Myanmar junta handed power to a new government whose ranks are filled with former generals.

Environmentalists warn the dam project would inundate an area about the size of Singapore, submerging dozens of villages, displacing at least 10,000 people and irreversibly damaging one of the world's most biodiverse areas.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is among those who have urged the authorities to review the project, which is backed by energy giant China Power Investment Corp. The dissident welcomed the suspension.

"It's good to listen to the people's voice. That's what all governments should do," Suu Kyi told reporters.
The Nobel laureate said in a recent interview that there was "a growing consciousness of the need to protect the Irrawaddy".

She added: "It's something that we're all concerned about because the Irrawaddy is very important for the whole country, economically, geographically, ecologically and emotionally."

Police last week arrested a man who staged a rare solo protest against the project outside a Chinese embassy building in Rangoon.

They also blocked a rally this week by people seeking the release of political prisoners and an end to the Myitsone project, electricity from which is destined for neighbouring China. No arrests were made on that occasion.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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