Disagreement about Norwegian’s aid to Myanmar

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Norway’s state budget in 2017 states that Myanmar is a post-conflict country. The definition can bring bias the Norwegian support that may be detrimental to the peace process in the country, the Norwegian Burma Committee claims, referring to SN Power’s project in Shan State. SN Power does not share this opinion and responds to the criticism.

A number of actors with knowledge about Myanmar criticise the government for reviewing Myanmar as a conflict country in the state budget, based on the escalation of the conflict after the reform process started, especially in Kachin State and Shan State in north where war has led to over 100,000 internally displaced people. In an article in Bistandsaktuelt, Myanmar: definitions of power and the difficult peace, they have pointed out that such a definition fits Norwegian interests and facilitate economic development in ethnic states where the country’s rich and attractive resources are located. The authors of the chronicle fear that Norwegian investments can do more harm than good without conflict sensitivity and very broad knowledge of local conditions, and cites SN Power’s plans of hydropower in Shan State as an example. Shan organisations are strong opponents of this and several other dam projects on the same river.

SN Power disagrees with the criticism, and CEO Torger Lien said in a reply that in their opinion, “business development and especially power are among the most important things for growth and stability in Myanmar.” From their side, the project, Middletown Yeywa, is a good project without major environmental impacts. According to SN Power, the company has received mainly positive feedback through consultations.

However, a number of Shan organisations have expressed strong opposition against the dam project. They published the report Save the Namtu River in March this year. In May, they sent an open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi in which they urged her to halt the Middle Yeywa project until a final agreement had been made in the peace process with consensus including control over and management of natural resources. Control of the abundant natural resources in the ethnic states is a major cause of many conflicts between the army and ethnic armed groups, and investments can therefore become drivers for conflict.

Source: Norwegian Burma Committee

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