Myanmar’s Suu Kyi heads to China with dam project clouding ties

Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi attends a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Vientiane, Laos July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi attends a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Vientiane, Laos July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is heading to China on Wednesday for what is likely to be her government’s biggest diplomatic test, with the fate of a suspended dam project, backed by China but opposed by many people in Myanmar, in the balance.

Myanmar’s former military rulers were shunned by the West and close to China, which has been on a diplomatic offensive since Suu Kyi’s government came to power in April, aiming to forge good ties with its resource-rich southern neighbor.

Finding a solution to the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project will be important for Suu Kyi who needs China’s cooperation in talks with Myanmar’s ethnic minority armed groups operating along northern borders with China.

“If the Chinese leaders bring up a specific issue like the controversial Myitsone mega-dam project, of course we’ll explain to them what we’ve been doing,” Myanmar foreign ministry permanent secretary Aung Lynn told Reuters.

Former Myanmar President Thein Sein angered China in 2011 when he suspended work on the hydro-power dam, at the confluence of two rivers in the Ayeyarwady river basin, after it drew widespread protests on environmental grounds.

About 90 percent of the dam’s power would have gone to China. At the time, Suu Kyi also called for the project’s suspension.

China said in March it would push the government to resume the project, insisting the contract was still valid.

A government commission has begun reviewing several hydropower projects, including Myitsone, and is due to report by Nov. 11.

China’s Global Times newspaper, an influential tabloid published by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said on Tuesday the commission was a “sign that might herald the restoration of the China-invested project”.

It also noted that Suu Kyi was visiting China ahead of a trip to the United States in September, and that China’s friendship with Myanmar was crucial.

“As Myanmar’s largest neighbor, it is necessary for Suu Kyi to attach importance to China,” the newspaper said.

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Other Chinese projects in Myanmar have also proved controversial, including the Letpadaung copper mine, which has sparked repeated protests, and twin Chinese oil and gas pipelines across the country.

Suu Kyi will be in China for four days at the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang. She will also meet President Xi Jinping.

Elements in China have for years maintained contacts with northern Myanmar rebel groups and militias, some of which are led by ethnic Chinese commanders, so China’s help could be key as Suu Kyi’s government seeks to promote peace and stability in lawless border regions.

Her government is holding a peace conference, with most of the country’s ethnic minority armed groups due to take part, on Aug. 31.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: Reuters “Myanmar’s Suu Kyi heads to China with dam project clouding ties”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


4 Comments on “Myanmar’s Suu Kyi heads to China with dam project clouding ties”

  1. Joseph says:

    Asian women usually make good pets for the Westerners. Asian women are in particular. Their thirst for prestige and misguided education often make them a good pawn for Western interests. Taiwan’s Tsai Ingwen is one good example. But Aung San Suu Kyi appears to defy this stigma. While starting up as a Western pawn to fight democracy even if her country burned to ashes, she actually has a change of heart once in power. Perhaps because of China’s involvement to persuade Tein Shein to give up power had open her eyes that the West was not so mighty after all, and put her efforts to better her people entirely without any mention of democracy anymore. In fact, Suu Kyi is more a Western enemy now than she was a Western supporter while under house arrest, a very unfavorable turn of even by the West who expect Myanmar to be theirs once she is in power. Her reluctance to let Western companies to gain monopoly in Myanmar, as well as the handling of the Rohinga crisis which was not they way the West wanted, has soured her relationship with the West greatly. Reuters is of course struggling to explain the behavior of one of their long time investment, which does not bring profit as it supposed to. Even during the SCS crisis, Aung San Suu Kyi was wisely quiet, just like the rest of ASEAN, while the West would want her to support them badly as their ‘ally’. It was said in Indonesia that the then Indonesia president Yudoyono studied her new relation with China back in 2013. Considered a pro-Western, Yudoyono had a change of heart to since the Australian hacked his and his wife’s phones. He would then facilitate the transition of power to Jokowi, the most anti-Western president Indonesia ever has, much the shock of the West who considered him also one of their ‘ally’.


    • Steve says:

      Well written – She always had a love for the Burmese army since young and a dedicated supporter her people and country. She knows that her country’s fortune is in Asia especially China. There is no other country on earth to befriend. Also, she is aware that her years left as a politician are limited and she need to pursue the most appropriate and beneficial course for her beloved country.