Thursday, 8 August 2013

British firm attacked over Burma dams


The British construction company that helped to build two dams in Burma has been condemned by human rights campaigners amid reports that the projects led to the forced relocation of villagers.

Malcolm Dunstan and Associates, a Devon-based family-run firm, has been involved in concrete construction on the Yeywa dam in central Burma and the Ta Sang project on the Salween river in the north-east of the country. The projects, which will generate electricity for Thailand and China, have been targeted by human rights activists after reports that thousands of villagers had been removed from floodplains and opposition ruthlessly crushed.

Dunstan has defended his firm's work, arguing that he had consulted Burmese people who said that the dams should be built. But some of Burma's most respected campaigners have pleaded with the company and other British firms to stay away from the country.

Charm Tong, a Nobel prize nominee and director of Shan Women's Action Network, said: "We are very concerned about all of these so-called development projects between foreign corporations and the Burmese regime. We have documented increases of rape and forced labour [by the military] in the areas where dams are being built. We are talking about people who face killing and torture daily."

Nyo Ohn Myint, former political aide to Aung San Suu Kyi, said the company should vow not to work in Burma again. "Where [Malcolm Dunstan and Associates] is working is an area under martial law so there is no transparency or accountability. The weight of Asia's demand for energy should not rest on the shoulders of the people of Burma," he said.

The company helped to construct the Yeywa dam, 100 miles east of Mandalay. According to the firm's website, it was still involved in the project in December 2008, but declined last week to say whether it was still working on the site. Villagers within the floodplain of the Yeywa dam have been forcibly evicted without compensation over the past four years, according to one local report. The villagers had depended on the river for their livelihoods.

Maung Aung, 32, a peasant farmer who lived nearby, said he and his family of five were forced off the plain around five years ago. "We were never informed about this project and it has completely changed our world," he said.

The Ta Sang dam is expected to cost £4.5bn. It will flood an area that was once home to more than 100 villages. Hso Nang, 45, now lives in a refugee camp in Thailand after being forcibly removed a decade ago. He said: "The livelihoods of those who lived along the Salween will perish together with the river itself."

Dunstan confirmed that his firm had been involved in the Ta Sang project but said that its work was completed some years ago. In emails sent to Burma Campaign UK last December, he argued that the Yewya was an "acceptable" project because there was no military input. He insisted he did not believe any of the labour force had been "pressed" or were prisoners. He added that many of the dam's benefits would go to civilians.


Source: http://www.news.myanmaronlinecentre.com/2013/08/08/british-firm-attacked-over-burma-dams/

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