Dam bombing in Kachin State heightens tension over Border Guard Force

On Saturday, April 17, bombs exploded near the building site of a controversial dam in Kachin State, killing four Chinese workers and wounding at least 12. The bombings took place within the compound of Asia World Co. Ltd, the company building the Myitsone dam, and the victims were all Asia World Co. workers. According to sources in the Irrawaddy, over 37 bombs were set but only 25 exploded.

It is unknown who planted the bombs. Environmental activists and local residents stated that the Myitsone dam would harm the livelihoods of residents and the ecology of the Irrawaddy River as well as displace over 10,000 Kachin people who are living there. Some speculate the Burmese regime planted the bombs in order to damage relations between the opposition group, Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Chinese government. The dam is partially funded by the Chinese state-owned China Power Investment Corporation and China Southern Power Grid Corporation.

AsiaWorld office damaged by a bomb blast near the building site of the Myitsone Dam. Source: The Irrawaddy

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has denied having anything to do with the Myitsone bombings. KIA spokespeople said that the Burma Army most likely planted the bombs themselves and blamed the KIA because of their refusal to obey the junta’s order to join the Border Guard Force (BGF). On Monday, KIO officials met with junta officials in Kachin State to discuss the dam blasts just days before the KIO deadline to join the Border Guard Force. Ethnic armed groups such as the KIA will be declared unlawful by the military regime if they refuse to  join the Border Guard Forces by April 22.

The dam attack came two days after a series of bombings in Rangoon during Thingyan, the Burmese new year, which killed nine people and wounded over a hundred. The US and Singapore condemned these bombings, which were the worst in Rangoon in five years.

The Burmese state-run newspaper The Mirror accused The National League for Democracy (NLD), the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), and the Vigorous Burmese Students’ Warriors (VBSW) of training and sponsoring terrorists to bomb Rangoon. Moe Zaw Oo, a spokesperson for the NLD, said this accusation was meant to discredit the NLD party in light of its decision not to contest the 2010 election due to the undemocratic nature of the political process. Some people have suggested the military junta masterminded the Rangoon bombings in order to justify more oppressive measures and state persecutions ahead of the elections.

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