Three articles look at China’s influence in South-East Asia: first; resentment in Myanmar; second, Cambodian rivalries; third, Banyan on the strategic implications
Jun 9th 2011 | MYITKYINA, KACHIN STATE | from the print edition, The Economist
WAIST-DEEP in the muddy water, hundreds of people swirl their pans, scouring the black sediment for the sparkle of gold dust. They have come from all over Myanmar to Kachin state, where the N’Mai and Mali rivers merge to form the mighty Irrawaddy, knowing that a good day may yield $1,000-worth of gold—and that time for gold-panning is running out.
Across the river, the corrugated-iron roofs of a prefabricated barracks glint in the midday sun. They house hundreds of Chinese labourers working on the Myitsone hydropower project. This, according to Myanmar’s government, will be the sixth highest dam in the world, and generate 6,000MW of electricity a year. On completion in 2019, the dam will flood the gold-prospecting area and displace more than 10,000 people. All the electricity will be exported to China. All the revenue will go to Myanmar’s government. If an environmental and social impact study was conducted at all, it did not involve consulting the affected villagers.
A local Catholic priest who led prayers against the dam says his parishioners were moved to a “model” village, into tiny houses on plots too small for cultivation. The letters of concern he sent to Myanmar’s leaders went unanswered. He says he will stay in his historic church “till the waters rise over the doorstep”.
Those displaced are not the only ones worrying about the project. . . .