The Halting of the Myitsone Dam is a Victory for the People of Burma

The following is a statement released today from USCB:

October 4, 2011

Contact: Thelma Young, thelma@uscampaignforburma.org
Phone: (202) 234 – 8022

The US Campaign for Burma applauds the efforts of a grassroots movement inside Burma that won a significant victory last week when President Thein Sein announced the construction suspension of the controversial Myitsone Dam. This was truly a landmark achievement, as the campaign against the dam was a widespread popular movement that saw activists, civil society, religious groups, politicians, scientists, artists, environmentalists and more all stand up to demand the protection of a national landmark, the Irrawaddy River. With Burma becoming increasingly a lackey of China, this national campaign sent a strong signal that the people of Burma will fight for their country.

It is important to clarify a misguided report about this effort. An article in The Guardian last week inaccurately claimed that the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon financially supported the campaign against the Myitsone Dam. The article used a leaked diplomatic cable that discussed civil society actions against the dam, and stated at the end “An unusual aspect of this case is the role grassroots organizations have played in opposing the dam, which speaks to the growing strength of civil society groups in Kachin State, including recipients of Embassy small grants.” It should be clarified that the organizations receiving these grants from the U.S. Embassy got them specifically for their social welfare work and not to support the campaign against the Myitsone dam.

With Chinese anger growing over the halting of the dam construction, this clarification must be made. The Chinese cannot claim that activists groups in Burma were working at the behest of the U.S. Government. While the U.S. has officially welcomed the announcement to suspend the dam, it in no way provided financial backing for the campaign. The future of Burma has always resided in the hands of the people of Burma, and the anti-dam campaign is a clear signal that people power is alive and thriving in the country.

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