Distributor:  Global Environmental Justice
Length:  62 minutes
Date:  2015
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Burmese; Kachin; English / English subtitles
Grade level: Viewer Advisory Includes short sections of news footage of drug use and injuries from civil war.
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available

Curator

Jason Carbine, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Whittier College

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Dams, Drugs and Democracy

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Tells the story of a plan to dam the Irrawaddy River at its source: Myitsone, in Kachin State, northern Myanmar.

Dams, Drugs and Democracy

Curator
This film was selected by Jason A. Carbine C. Milo Connick Chair of Religious Studies Associate Professor Department of Religious Studies, Whittier College.

Why I chose this film
I selected this film because it shows the interrelations between religion and many other facets of global development: hydropower projects, resource extraction, population displacement, drug addiction, war, venture capital efforts, military rule, and democracy, as well as Myanmar’s foreign relations, especially with China. I am struck by how well the documentary integrates all these themes.

Teacher's guide
Please see the accompanying guide for maps, background information and suggested subjects, questions and activities.

Synopsis
This compelling documentary places Myanmar's Myitsone Dam in the context of the Kachin insurgency which has ravaged the country for more than five decades in the struggle for control the region’s rich resources. Over the course of four years, a team of local journalists lived with villagers displaced by the dam project. They followed dam protesters and interviewed key players: local politicians, insurgent leaders, independent observers, and those behind the delayed Myitsone Dam project. All this comes at a time of significant political and societal change in Myanma.

Environmental Justice Focus
Different environmental, social, and political impacts, on ethnic Kachin people and others, are woven together to show how, as a result of a large-scale hydro-electric project, people are relocated, led into financial dispossession, and fall into drug addiction. 

Download Teacher's Guide for Dams, Drugs and Democracy

 

TRANSCRIPT WITH TIME CODE FOR Dams Drugs and Democracy: The Struggle for Resources in Kachin State.

TIME

VISUALS

AUDIO

 

 

TITLE

DAMS, DRUGS AND DEMOCRACY

The Struggle for Resources in Kachin State, Myanmar

 

 

Hilary Clinton

 

 

One country of particular concern is Burma

 

It is important for us and for others to try to understand better what is unfolding in Burma today

 

 

Obama

 

You live at the crossroads of East and South Asia

 

You border the most populated nations on the planet

 

 

TITLE

 

U Thein Sein

President of Myanmar

 

 

Thein Sein

For democracy to flourish in our country, we will have to move forward and undertake political and economic reforms in the years ahead

 

 

TITLE

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

 

 

Aung San Suu Kyi

 

 

We propose to resolve all these problems of violence between communities, between different ethnic groups

 

People who feel threatened are not going to sit down and sort out their problems

 

We have got to start with rule of law

 

 

Obama

 

 

Within these borders, we’ve seen some of the world’s longest running insurgencies, which have cost countless lives

 

You now have a moment to transform ceasefires into lasting settlements, and to pursue peace where conflicts still linger, including Kachin State

 

 

Narration 

In 2013, several journalists from Myanmar set out to film Kachin State, in the far north of the country

 

They went to tell the story of the people who live there, and the river that runs through their land

 

The team spent many months living in the local community

 

 

TITLE 

“When the water buffalo fight, the myeza grass gets trampled underfoot”

Burmese Proverb

 

 

TITLE

Myitsone, Kachin State

 

 

Narration

Myitsone is the birthplace of the Irrawaddy River, where the Mayhka and the Malihka Rivers meet

 

A village called Tang Hpre stands at the confluence of the two rivers

 

 

TITLE

 

Tang Hpre Village

Northern Kachin State

Population: 1,000

 

 

Narration

A village called Tang Hpre stands at the confluence of the two rivers

 

 

TITLE

 

 

Seng Hkawng (33)

 

 

Seng Hkawng

My name is Daw Seng Hkawng

 

In our family there are five people: three children, me, and my husband

 

I run a restaurant, my husband drives a ferry

 

Me and most of my brothers and sisters have become food vendors, following in the footsteps of our parents

 

From our earnings, we have enough money to live, and to pay for our childrens’ education

 

When I was young, I couldn't speak Burmese, only our local Kachin language, and so faced difficulties at school

 

In order to avoid the same problems, I teach Burmese to our children at home

 

That way, they will be fine at school

 

At that time, we couldn't speak Burmese, so we really faced difficulties at school.

 

That's because we didn't learn Burmese to begin with, we only spoke when we grew up

 

 

 

Share Gum Ja

I am more of a jungle-person

 

I usually just carry my knife and basket and gointo the jungle to find things to eat

 

 

 

TITLE

 

Share Gum Ja (65)

 

 

Share Gum Ja

I had five children

 

I move to Tang Hpre village in 2002

 

My mother passed away in 2003

 

My wife passed away in 2004

 

So I'm on my own, with nobody left to cook for me

 

Living as a human being in Myanmar is difficult

 

In other countries, most people of my age just stay at home and live a comfortable life

 

Whenever anyone gets to a high position in this country, they only think about their own lives and their own families

 

They don't bother with us unless they have something to take from us, or if they want to force us to work for them

 

That is their characteristic

 

 

Share Gum Ja & Gum An Tu

Why don’t you play a song, the song that you like the best?

 

No, I don’t feel like it

 

 

Gum An Tu

How long have you been digging the mine?

 

Two weeks

 

 

Gum An Tu

I was born and raised here in Tang Hpre village

 

When I was a boy, life was difficult for my parents who were not educated

 

 

 TITLE

Gum An Tu (48)

 

 

 

They farmed, knowing no other way to make a living

 

I have known how to search for gold since I was a teenager

 

But I’ve only been mining gold to make a living for five or six years

 

The rock won’t move

 

Yes it will!

 

Recently, we got arrested and were sent to #1 Police Station

 

Then, they charged us for mining gold illegally

 

We were sentenced to one month in jail with a fine of 50,000 Kyat (~US $50) each

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

My name is Dr Nicholas Farrelly and I am a fellow here in the Australia National University’s college of Asia and the Pacific

 

 

TITLE

Dr Nicholas Farrelly

Australia National University

Director, Pan Asia Institute

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

Much of my work focuses on politics and culture in northern Myanmar, where I have for many years dealt with the challenging situations that have faced the Kachin people

 

The fact is, northernmost Myanmar, Kachin State in particular, is a really rich place

 

There’s jade, there’s gold, there are water resources that you can tap for hydroelectricity

 

The sorts of profits that can be made in Kachin State are simply astounding

 

 

TITLE

Promotional Video Courtesy of China Power Investment

 

 

Voiceover

 

Founded on December 29th 2002, with registered capital of 12 billion Yuan, China Power Investment Corporation, or CPI, is one of the five generating companies in China and a comprehensive energy group, integrating power, coal, aluminum, railway, port, coal chemistry, environmental protection, and other related industries

 

Possessing assets in hydropower, thermal power, nuclear power and new energy, it is one of the three companies that can build and operate nuclear power in China

 

CPI is also actively launching projects overseas, including hydropower projects in Myanmar

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

China has very significant commercial interests in that part of Myanmar

 

One of their largest projects has been the effort to build a very large capacity hydroelectricity facility on the main stream of the Irrawaddy River, which of course is the river that runs straight down the middle of Myanmar, often described as the lifeline of the country

 

 

TITLE

 

Professor U Maung Maung Aye

Chief Advisor, Myanmar Environment Institute

 

 

Maung Maung Aye

 

The drainage area of our mighty River Irrawaddy covers 58% to 60% of the total land area of our country

 

About 24 million people reside in this Irrawaddy drainage basin

 

The livelihoods of our Myanmar people have to depend on the gift of the Irrawaddy

 

 

Narration

In 2006, China Power Investment Cooperation came to an agreement with Myanmar government to build the 15th largest dam in the world on the Irrawaddy River at Myitsone

 

The Myitsone Dam project is a joint venture with China Power Investment (or CPI), the Myanmar government, and the Asia World company (Myanmar’s largest conglomerate)

 

CPI is the largest shareholder in joint venture, owning 80%

 

 

TITLE

 

China Power Investment

Office Compound, Yangon

 

 

Narration

We invited all the partners in the Myitsone Dam project to be interviewed for this film, but only CPI agreed

 

 

SECTION

CPI INTERVIEW

 

 

TITLE

 

Li Guanghua

President of the Upstream Ayewardy Confluence Basin Hydropower Project (a subsidiary of CPI)

 

 

Li Guanghua

现在我負責的是伊江的这个水电的開發

I am responsible for the development of hydroelectricity power generation projects on the Irrawaddy River

 

我們從2006 年就進入缅甸

We went into Myanmar in 2006

 

開始這個水電的前期勘测和前期的研究工做

And started the initial hydroelectricity surveys and research work

 

Myitsone是第一个項目,但是我們同時其它的七個項目都在做

Myitsone was the first project, but in total there are seven projects that we are doing at the same time

 

那么Myitsone 是6000MW的裝機總量

The total installed capacity of the Myitsone project will be 6,000MW

 

發電量呢,是300億

The annual generating capacity will be 30b kWh

 

这个300 亿度電相當於缅甸现在全国今年发电量的三倍

This 30b kWh of electricity generation capacity is equivalent to three times the total electricity output for the nation of Myanmar

 

我們談的是给缅甸百分之三十 ,其中百分之十是免费的電量

We are talking about giving Myanmar 30% of this electricity, 10% of which would be free of charge

 

在這個過程中,中國實際上打開了自己的市場來接受緬甸的電

In doing this, China is actually opening up its domestic power market to accept electricity from Myanmar

 

但是中國呢,為了幫助緬甸呢,實際上可以接受緬甸的電

China, in order to help Myanmar, is in fact willing to accept electricity from Myanmar

 

現在我們做的工作呢,就是告訴老百姓這個真實的Myitsone

The work we are doing now is to tell the general population the truth about Myitsone

 

Myitsone到底,Myitsone的合同是怎麼樣的,環保

Tell them what the contract for Myitsone is like, tell them about environmental protection…

 

EIA,SIA是怎麼樣的

…the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Social Impact Assessment… 

 

然後以及這個項目緬甸可以得到的一些利益吧

And also tell them about the benefits that Myanmar can get from this project

 

 

TITLE

 

Professor U Maung Maung Aye

Chief Advisor, Myanmar Environment Institute

 

 

Maung Maung Aye

What is going to happen if the Myitsone Dam is constructed?

 

Let’s start from upstream

 

So first of all, we are going to have a new reservoir or man-made lake, not a natural one

 

There are some areas of historical heritage or cultural heritage, some religious monuments or buildings

 

They are going to be flooded

 

There is a very significant correlation between a mega-dam and severe earthquakes

 

The Myitsone Dam site is not far away from the Great Sagaing Fault; a very, very active fault

 

So, there are a lot of examples all over the world… Once you construct or build a dam on a river, the problem is sediment

 

Sediment is trapped in the reservoir

 

Less sediment means less nutrients

 

You are going have a depletion or degradation of fish species, shrimp species and other aquatic life

 

So, you are going to have less fertile soil and less productivity

 

Crop yield, crop production will become less and less, year after year

 

The fluvial processes of our Irrawaddy River will become weak

 

That means the intrusion of marine water or saltwater into the deltic area

 

And it will ruin or damage the paddy fields of our Irrawaddy Delta

 

Very dangerous    

 

 

 

 

 

SECTION

 

Aung Myin Thar (New Village)

 

 

Li Guanghua

 

我們現在在移民村,就是做了兩個移民村

We have made two resettlement villages

 

在Myitsone右岸有一個叫作Aung Myin Thar移民村, 在左岸有一個叫Maliyang移民村

On the right bank (downstream from) Myitsone there is a village called Aung Myin Thar

 

 

TITLE

Aung Myin Thar

Resettlement Village

 

 

Li Guanghua

 

 

 

 

那麼現在移民村這幾年他們取得大米

For the past few years, the inhabitants of the resettlement villages have been receiving rice

 

然後也用的電

And also getting electricity (for free)

 

一直都是我們在提供

This is what we (CPI) have been providing all along

 

移民村的房子呢,都是跟原來的住房的大小

The houses in the resettlement villages are all the same size as the houses in the old village

 

那麼我們都給他做大一點

In fact we even made them a little bit bigger

 

我們建了5個教堂

We have constructed five churches

 

 

Choir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priest

Make peace with life, this struggle of sadness

 

Lord, please rule over our land

 

My lord, your blessings on us are uncountable

 

Please protect our people

 

Children, you have been studying so hard for your examinations

 

You will be able to complete the exam without forgetting anything

 

 

TITLE

Seng Hkawng’s New House

Aung Myin Thar Resettlement Village

 

 

Seng Hkawng

 

After we moved, they gave us food for the first week

 

They gave us enough rice for one year

 

Then they also gave us 100,000 Kyat (~US $100) in cash

 

Then a TV and a chair

 

That’s all

 

In our old village, we know how and where to find food

 

It is easy to find vegetables in the forest

 

We can't grow anything here in the new village

 

We planted some vegetables, but it turned out badly

 

---

 

The windows are broken

 

This house looks fancy from the outside

 

But I had to build the foundations with concrete myself, because the pillars of the house were leaning

 

 

TITLE

Footage of a neighbouring house in the rainy season

 

 

Seng Hkawng

 

It won’t last longer than three years

 

When there is a strong wind, look how it falls apart

 

In Aung Myin Thar, there’s no place to find firewood

 

Every piece of land has an owner

 

The builders really had no sense of responsibility

 

 

Narration

In 2011, in an unexpected development, the new president of Myanmar halted construction on the Myitsone dam for the duration of his presidential term

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

The Myitsone dam project was a project that was approved under Myanmar’s former military dictatorship

 

That was a time when there was almost no transparency when it came to large-scale investments by Chinese companies

 

The postponement of the construction was ordered by President Thein Sein, the president of Myanmar

 

He was getting advice that this is a dam that was causing a great deal of disquiet, not just in Kachin State, but in other parts of the country

 

We understand that the Chinese government was taken aback by that turn of events

 

It didn't have any forewarning

 

That perhaps goes to show just how important the president and some of his advisors judged this issue was, in terms of securing their own political legitimacy, at a vulnerable moment in the country’s recent evolution

       

 

TITLE

Myitkyina

Capital of Kachin State

 

 

 

TITLE

‘Blast’ Band

Anti-dam Activists and Musicians

 

 

TITLE

Maran Seng Li (30)        Awng Lum (33)

 

 

Awng Lum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maran Seng Li

 

 

 

 

We weren’t going to run away

 

We decided to work on revealing the truth – this is how everyone feels

 

We didn’t want to run away… If we are arrested, we will go to prison – we decided it that way

 

He works in his way, and I work in mine

 

Our song does not mean to attack or to condemn those who are involved in the dam project

 

All we say is that the Irrawaddy River is the life artery of our country

 

And that is about to be destroyed

 

 

Song

Malihka River, Oh Malihka!

 

I don't want to see you die...

 

Mother River Malihka, the lifeblood of our people…

 

…You are to be used for the benefit of a foreign nation

 

Oh look!

 

At Myitsone, where the Mayhka and Malihka Rivers meet, the huge dam is being built…

 

…I don’t want to see that happen

 

Oh, the lifeblood of our people, Malihka...

 

…Will be in the hands of selfish people

 

Oh, look!

 

Don't destroy our Malihka!

 

Don't torture our Malihka!

 

Protect our Malihka, patriotic brothers!

 

We should protect what belongs to us! 

 

 

Awng Lum

 

 

 

 

 

Maran Seng Li

We are emotional, and at the same time we are very happy...

 

…We are happy that we could be a cornerstone in stopping this Myitsone Dam project

 

For the moment, at least!

 

We are happy that work on the dam has been suspended, but we don't know what will happen next

 

 

TITLE

 

Aung Myin Thar

Resettlement Village

 

 

Seng Hkawng

 

After moving to the new village, we couldn't find any way to do business…

 

…So we end up doing nothing

 

If we were allowed to work in the old village, then my family could stay here…

 

…and our children could continue their education here in Aung Myin Thar

 

We really hope to get permission to go back to Tang Hpre

 

If we get a chance to live in the old village, life would be better

 

I don't care if I am arrested

 

I will go back to the old village, and let them arrest me if they must

 

 

Narration

After the dam project was suspended in 2011, many of those who had been resettled started to drift back to the old village

 

It was illegal to return, but many felt that they had no choice, as they had to make a living for themselves and their families

 

 

TITLE

Gum An Tu (48)

 

Gum An Tu

Some families are moving back here to Tang Hpre

 

One family asked me to rebuild this house if I had time

 

So now I am building their house, though not a big one

 

 

Share Gum Ja

I am taking cane to make baskets

 

I will make ten or twenty…

 

…and sell them where there is no cane available

 

All the pillars of this house were carried away by

the Asia World Company to Aung Myin Thar village

 

I didn't want to move

 

Those wooden houses that the Chinese have built in the new village, they are not very safe

 

When it is windy, you have to wear trousers, otherwise your longyi would get blown off

 

Anyway I took the pillar of my wooden house back to this village on a truck, and then I paid 35,000 Kyat (~US $35) to rebuild my house here in the old village

 

 

 

 

 

 

U Tu Awng

 

 

Hey, how did you two meet?

 

Don’t tell lies!

 

I told her that we should go to see a movie together, and then we decided to get married

 

So you didn’t make it to the cinema, right?

 

 

Seng Hkwang

 

After we were ordered to move away from the old village…

 

…local companies came into the old village and started to mine out the gold

 

Our old village was being destroyed

 

Some villagers lost hope

 

They sold their land to the local gold-mining company

 

 

Narration

Local villagers have also started to pan for gold more often, to supplement their incomes and provide for their families

 

 

Local woman panning for gold

 

Is it legal to pan for gold?

 

No, it has already been banned here at Myitsone, last year

 

This is mercury that I am using

 

Where did you buy it?

 

Someone left it on the street, so I picked it up

 

What will happen after you do that?

 

After I rub it in, the gold combines with the mercury

 

The gold becomes white in colour…

 

…but when you heat it up, then it becomes yellow

 

We used to drink this river water

 

But now it is polluted so we don’t use it anymore

 

I bring my own drinking water from home

 

Where is the gold?

 

It’s right here

 

 

 

TITLE

Baptist Church

Tang Hpre Village

 

 

Teacher and students

Nationalism…

 

…in order to be active…

 

…was campaigned for…

 

…on that day

 

National Day…

 

…should not be forgotten

 

 

 

Priest

Believers in Jesus Christ, gathered here in this church to worship…

 

At the last supper, Jesus Christ broke bread with his twelve disciples

 

In the name of Jesus we pray… Amen

 

 

TITLE

Brang Nu (44)

Baptist Pastor

 

 

 

Pastor Brang Nu

When the dam project started, the gold miners came

 

Workers from other areas came here to work in the gold mines

 

They brought drugs with them

 

Before that, we didn’t really know anything about drugs

 

We only used to drink our traditional alcohol

 

 

 

TITLE

 

 

Wasteland

near Myitkyina

 

 

TITLE

Manual Labourer (19)

 

 

 

Manual Labourer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I normally drink alcohol

 

But I wanted to try heroin because my friends were using it

 

Then I got addicted

 

When was that?

 

In 2007

 

The first time I tried it, I got a shock

 

My friend injected me with more than I could stand

 

I overdosed and nearly died

 

Some people even slice open their blood vessels and rub in the drugs

 

I want to stop using but I don’t know how

 

Even when I stop using drugs, then as soon as I see them I want to start using again

 

 

 

Seng Hkawng

 

 

 

 

When our village was demolished, my husband had to get a job away from home as he could not find a job here

 

So he worked in a gold-mining company…

 

…and then he started using heroin

 

After my husband started using drugs...

 

…he wasn’t able to support our family as before

 

I now take all responsibility for my children’s education and for making a living for the family   

 

 

 

Narration

 

Myanmar ranks as the world’s second largest heroin producer behind Afghanistan

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

 

Kachin State in northernmost Myanmar is a spectacular place: high mountains, deep valleys, big rivers

 

It’s wedged right between China and India

 

They loom large over Kachin State

 

The Chinese government has in mind that it needs to secure its energy supplies for what may prove to be a very turbulent 21st century

 

They have built pipelines across northern Myanmar to secure their oil and gas appetites

 

The reason is to ensure that they don’t, in some future security contingency, find themselves starved of resources, because the Strait of Malacca – which runs down here between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore – gets cut off

 

And so Kachin State plays a particularly important role

 

It’s the lynchpin, in a sense

 

 

TITLE

Sedona Hotel, Yangon

December 2013

 

 

Narration

 

CPI wants the Myitsone Dam project to be restarted following the next presidential election at the end of 2015

 

As that time approaches, CPI has been trying to emphasise the potential benefits of the dam

 

 

TITLE

Li Guanghua

President of the Upstream Ayewardy Confluence Basin Hydropower Company

(A subsidiary of CPI)

 

 

Li Guanghua

 

We actively pushed forward the Upstream Irrawaddy Hydropower Project in a highly responsible manner…

 

…especially following the ten principles of the UN Global Compact

 

We have earnestly fulfilled our social responsibility, participated in public welfare…

 

…striving to make positive contributions to the economic and social development of Myanmar

 

We require that the projects have been conducted to benefit the local people

 

We hope to continue the frank exchanges and mutual trust with all sectors of society…

 

…so that the general public can learn about the truth of the project, to understand and support the project’s implementation

 

 

Li Guanghua

 

我們希望呢,就是通過媒體,通過跟他們的交流能把這個事情的真相告訴他們

We hope to go through the media, and through such interactions, get to tell them the actual truth of the situation

 

然後我相信很多人會轉變自己的想法

And then I trust that a lot of people will change their minds

 

 

TITLE

 

Shwedagon Pagoda

Yangon

 

 

Narration

 

Despite CPI’s public relations efforts, many people in Myanmar are still strongly opposed to the Myitsone Dam, and are worried that the work on the dam will start again soon

 

In March 2014, people from all over the country gathered in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar’s holiest site

 

 

Protesters

Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam Project

 

Stop it completely!

 

Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam Project

 

Stop it completely!

 

 

Ye Htut Kaung

 

 

 

Police

 

This is not a protest against the country

 

This is a chance for us to make a suggestion to the president and parliament

 

I want to see the letter of permission for this protest

 

 

Narration

 

Over the following three months, they marched all the way from Yangon to the site of the Myitsone Dam, a distance of more than 1,200 kilometers

 

 

Protesters (singing)

 

Now is an important time, brothers

 

Our blood should be united

 

We have written a new history with our blood

 

We made a blood oath

 

 

TITLE

 

Entrance to CPI Work Area

Near Myitsone

 

 

Protesters

 

Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam Project

 

Stop it immediately! Stop it completely!

 

We don't want... CPI!

 

Asia World... Bastards!

 

To protect the Irrawaddy... Is our duty

 

Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam Project

 

Stop it immediately! Stop it completely!

 

 

TITLE

 

Ye Htut Kaung (33)

 

 

Ye Htut Kaung

I’m not afraid to go to jail

 

Even if I am arrested under Article 18 [illegal assembly], I dare to go to jail

 

I don't want to be seen as a criminal in the eyes of history

 

The people who want to put us in prison are the ones who will be seen as criminals in the eyes of history

 

Even if I die in prison, that is but one life

 

But if the Myitsone dam project is not stopped completely, if the project is implemented, then the lives of 65 million people will be lost

 

 

Narration

 

 

The leader of the protest march, Ye Htut Kaung, was later arrested and charged with taking part in an illegal protest

 

He was sentenced to 12 months in jail

 

 

TITLE

 

Aung Myin Thar

Resettlement Village

 

 

Monk with novices

Alms for monks

 

 

TITLE

 

Buddhist Temple

Aung Myin Thar Village

 

 

TITLE

 

U Tay Seinna

Abbot of Buddhist Temple, Aung Myin Thar

 

U Tay Seinna

 

We don’t protest against the dam project

 

As a monk, I don’t protest against the government

 

Not at all!

 

We are building a pagoda in Aung Myin Thar called the ‘Kachin Peace-making World Pagoda’…

 

…to wish for peace in Kachin State in the future

 

The main reason for the pagoda is to make Kachin State peaceful

 

We don't have a pagoda dedicated to peace in Kachin State, so we are building one to get peace here

 

 

Narration

 

 

Kachin State has been at war for much of the last century

 

In the Second World War, the Kachin people fought with the British and Americans against the Japanese

 

After the war, and as Burma moved towards independence from Britain in 1948, the Kachin people expected that they would be free to run their own affairs, in accordance with the Panglong Agreement

 

But General Aung San, Myanmar’s independence leader and architect of the Panglong Agreement, was assassinated in 1947, just before independence

 

For much of the 1950s, Myanmar was ravaged by insurgencies

 

The Kachin Independence Organisation, the KIO, was founded in 1961

 

They wanted self-determination for Kachin State and control over its rich resources

 

The following year, General Ne Win, the former head of the country's armed forces, seized power in Myanmar in a military coup

 

Then, for much of the next three decades, the Kachin Independence Army, the KIA, fought battle after battle against the military junta

 

Only in 1994, did the Myanmar government and the KIA sign a ceasefire, which led to 15 years of relative peace and prosperity in Kachin State

 

Kachin State is still divided between the central government-controlled areas and KIO territory

 

It requires special permission to travel between the government and the KIO areas

 

Laiza, located on the China-Myanmar border in Kachin State, is the headquarters of the KIO

 

 

TITLE

 

Laiza, KIO Headquarters

on the China-Myanmar Border

 

TITLE

 

General Gun Maw

Vice-Chief of Staff of the Kachin Independence Army

 

 

Gun Maw

We want to have the autonomy to decide our own destiny…

 

…which would come about if we have a real, equal Federal Union

 

Myitsone is where the Mayhka and the Malihka converge to form the Irrawaddy River

 

It is crucial to the history of the Kachin people

 

The Myitsone dam project is not just the concern of the Kachin people, it is the concern of the whole nation

 

The Kachin Independence Organisation believes that it is an enormous problem for all

 

 

Narration

 

The Myitsone dam project contributed to a breakdown of trust between the KIO and the Myanmar government

 

In 2010, several bombs exploded near the dam site, reportedly killing four workers

 

The Myanmar government blamed the KIA, who denied responsibility

 

Myanmar began to open up, and held a general election in November 2010

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the elections that were held across Myanmar in November 2010, it became very clear that the Kachin ceasefire was in a fragile state

 

It was difficult for the Kachin leadership

 

There were those, like Dr Tu Ja, who were trying to come up with a mechanism whereby Kachin independence interests could be represented in the new semi-democratic political system

 

But they didn't get a chance

 

 

TITLE

 

Myitkyina

Capital of Kachin State

 

 

TITLE

 

Dr Manam Tu Ja (65)

Politician

 

Manam Tu Ja

 

My name is Dr Tu Ja, I am a Kachin, and I live in Myitkyina, Kachin State

 

In 2009, I resigned officially from the KIO

 

Then I formed a political party with my friends in 2010

 

The government indefinitely postponed the by-election (in 2012) for the seats in Kachin, for security reasons

 

So I didn’t get a chance to run in the by-election

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the early months of 2011, the ceasefire really did begin to unravel

 

By June of 2011, both sides were once again committed to war

 

On the 9th June 2011, a new war sparked up

 

It wasn't a surprise

 

It led to a new phase of torrid conflict between the Kachin and Myanmar central authorities

 

And it’s now the aftershocks of that war that the Kachin people are having to get to grips with

 

 

Soldier

 

Lots of soldiers are moving forward towards us

 

 

TITLE

 

 

Myanmar military forces attack Kachin Independence Army positions at Hkaya Mountain near Laiza, January 2013

 

 

Soldier 

They are coming

 

 

 

Narration

 

In the past, there had often been fighting in the resource-rich areas of Kachin, such as the jade mines of Hpakant

 

However, the assaults by the Myanmar military in early 2013 drove deep into KIO territory

 

 

Soldiers

 

 

 

They are Burmese soldiers

 

Really?

 

Nobody is ready yet

 

Go! Go! We must all go!

 

Morphine?

 

 

Narration

 

During the course of this long war, there have been widespread allegations of human rights abuses and the use of child soldiers on both sides

 

 

 

Injured Soldier

 

It was a mortar, it hit here

 

 

 

TITLE

 

KIA Military Hospital

behind the frontlines

 

 

 

Injured Soldier

 

It hurts! It hurts so much!

 

 

 

TITLE

Dr Manam Tu Ja (65)

Politician

 

 

 

 

 

I am sad

 

This is why the KIO has been desperately willing to start political discussions again

 

I think that a good future lies ahead

 

 

 

TITLE

 

Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG)

Myitkyina

 

 

TITLE

 

Hkapara Khun Awng

PCG Representative

 

 

 

Hkapara Khun Awng

 

I am U Hkapara Khun Awng

 

I am a member of the Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG)

 

Now there are more than 100,000 Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) in Kachin

 

How they have struggled - houses were burnt, animals were killed…

 

…some people were arrested, and others were killed in battle

 

TITLE

 

IDP Camp

near Myitkyina

 

 

TITLE

 

Lamai Gum Mai (57)

Kachin IDP

 

 

Lamai Gum Mai

In the past we have run away from the fighting many times

 

One time, we ran into the jungle

 

We didn't have any help, and nobody knew about our struggle

 

Near our village, there was an explosion and some bridges were destroyed...

 

…so we had to run away quickly

 

Now, we have been in the camp for years

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

Part of the struggle that many people within the Kachin community are locked in, is a struggle to work out precisely who it is who has the right to extract the wealth from this part of the country

 

 

 

TITLE

 

Laiza, KIO Headquarters

on the China-Myanmar border

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

And what we saw in late 2012, was the Myanmar army push right up to gates of Laiza

 

They put themselves in some of the most tactically-significant positions looking over that headquarters for the Kachin Independence Organisation

 

They did so, to ensure the Kachin were under no illusions about what would happen in a final phase of this confrontation

 

There was always going to be an element of restraint, even though for those in Laiza on those tragic afternoons, it didn’t feel like restraint at all - it felt like all-out war

 

 

TITLE

 

The Shelling of Laiza

by the Myanmar military

January 2013

 

 

Narration

 

After the tragic violence of early 2013, both sides began to explore the possibility of a ceasefire

 

A KIO delegation travelled to Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State, for talks with the Myanmar government in May 2013

 

 

 

Singing

 

Learn from each other

 

Empower your race

 

 

TITLE

 

Peace-talks between KIO and

Myanmar Government, May 2013

 

 

TITLE

 

General Gun Maw

Vice-Chief of Staff of the

Kachin Independence Army

 

 

Gun Maw

 

 

First, I would like to wish everyone a good day

 

As everyone knows, we have been through this sort of discussion many times

 

Today is an important day for the KIO

 

The KIO Executive Committee members have high hopes for this meeting

 

Throughout the history of the conflict, both sides may have misunderstood each other and made mistakes

 

However, the KIO looks forward to learning from its mistakes, and hopes for a good result in the future

 

 

Nicholas Farrelly

 

When the Myanmar government is forced to account for all of its diverse peoples, it comes up with 135 different national race categories

 

Perhaps it’s a paradise for anthropologists, but Myanmar frankly is a statesman’s nightmare

 

 

 

Dr. Tu Ja

 

I am optimistic...The Kachin people also like peace, they want peace

 

They want to stop the civil war and they want to achieve peace

 

 

Nicholas Farelly

 

It is pretty clear, that any final settlement to this kind of conflict needs the local people to get a fair share of the resources that are in their own lands

 

And the Myanmar government will need to come up with a set of practices that will work for the Kachin, but for so many other groups, all across the country

 

 

Narration

 

Despite sporadic outbreaks of violence in Kachin State, the government signed a national ceasefire with all ethnic armed groups, including the KIA, in March 2015

 

 

TITLE

 

Peace Pagoda

Aung Myin Thar

 

 

Narration

 

There are hopes that this draft accord will lead to a more permanent peace settlement and bring an end to Myanmar’s six decades of civil war

 

The status of Myitsone Dam project, however, remains uncertain

 

 

Li Guanghua

 

我們接触到的是,基本上,大多數的人是支持這個項目的

We think that basically, most people support this dam project

 

那麼也有一些反對的聲音

Now there are a few voices which are in opposition…

 

談到的一些問題,我覺得還是不太了解這個項目的一些實際情況

But from the questions they raise, I feel that they don’t really understand the actual situation

 

 

Maung Maung Aye

 

The ground truth is we are going to lose so many things… 

 

Physical resources, natural resources, cultural resources, economic resources

 

Every resource is going to be lost, or damaged, or degraded

 

 

Seng Hkawng

 

I don't think the dam will benefit us

 

We have been suffering even before it has been completed…

 

…and it will be worse when it is finished

 

 

Gum An Tu

With all my heart, I tell you…

 

…this is the village where we grew up and the village that we love

 

But they won’t allow us to live here anymore because of the dam project

 

I can’t stand it… I will always be against the dam project

 

 

Share Gum Ja

 

I will carry on living here

 

Even though the villagers who were working in the gold mines have already moved away

 

I don't care if I start to drown, drown, drown when the floods from the dam come

 

If it looks as if I'm gonna drown, there are so many bamboo trees around here - I can just put a bamboo raft under my house

 

If necessary, I can cut the legs off my house and float away…

 

I could live that way

 

 

TITLE

 

It is still uncertain whether work on the Myitsone Dam will recommence after the general election of November 2015

 

 

TITLE

 

Tang Hpre Village

Site of the Myitsone Dam

 

 

Song

Passing the dark night, to get to a beautiful day

Only strong believers can triumph

 

Life is tough so everyone has to carry out their responsibilities

 

Don’t give up little Mi Nge [Irrawaddy River]

 

Only the brave can overcome

 

In taking responsibility for others, you will have to make sacrifices

 

 

 

Credits

With thanks to…

 

All of the people of Myitsone

Khun Sam

Yuyu Wai

Seng Mai

Ye Htut Kaung and his wife

Ei Phyu Zin Wint

Marcus Allender

Free Burma Rangers

Open Society Foundation

 

 

Translation

 

Seng Myaw

Khin Pyone Lay

Aung Zin Pyae

Esther Htusan Hkangda

Eaint Thiri Thu

Andrew Limond

 

 

Camera and Audio

 

Cherry Htike

Jack Aung

Andrew Limond

 

 

Additional Footage

 

La Ram

Mung Ra

Ye Htut Kaung

The White House

US Department of State

Chris Symes & Tony Neil

Democratic Voice of Burma

© 2015 Free Burma Rangers

Video provided by the Free Burma Rangers, which offers media free of charge to help the people of Burma

www.FreeBurmaRangers.org

 

 

Music

 

The people of Myitsone

Blast Band

Path of Flowers Panyelann

Prodigal Son - Brightside Studio

 

 

Editors

 

Jack Aung

Theo Yeung

Andrew Limond

 

 

Directors

 

Jack Aung

Andrew Limond

 

 

Narrator & Assistant Producer

 

Tadmur Smith

 

 

Producer

 

Andrew Limond

 

This documentary was produced on a not-for-profit basis

 

 

 

TITLE

Dams, Drugs & Democracy

The Struggle for Resources in Kachin State, Myanmar

 

 

 

Gum An Tu (final song)

 

Oh… In the shadow of the banyan tree

 

To meet my love again

Please wait for me there, love

 

Oh… Such a lovely girl

 

That’s all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four years later, Myitsone Dam back in spotlight

As President U Thein Sein’s tenure nears an end, a timely documentary has re-focused attention on his pledge to suspend work on the Myitsone Dam.

A new documentary has focussed attention on the plight of villagers living near the site of the interrupted Myitsone Dam project on which President U Thein Sein suspended work more than four years ago.

Drugs, Dams and Democracy, on which work began soon after the President’s dramatic September 30, 2011 decision to halt work on the project, features a rich cast of characters.

As well as villagers resettled to make way for the multi-million dollar dam, the documentary includes interviews with gold miners, musicians, heroin addicts, church leaders and a representative of the state-owned Chinese company with a big stake in the project.

The recent screening of the documentary in Yangon has re-focussed attention on U Thein Sein’s decision, in the face of an escalating national protest movement, to suspend work on the project for the tenure of his government. As his term in office nears an end, there have been reports that the project will be revived after the new government is formed early next year. However, U Thein Sein has not ruled out seeking a second term in office, and should he serve again as president, the implications of his pledge on the dam are not clear.

Planning began in 2001 for the Myitsone Dam, where the confluence of the Malikha and N’Mai Kha rivers creates the Ayeyarwady River about 26 miles (42 kilometres) upstream from the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina. The dam was due to be completed in 2017 and to generate 6,000 megawatts, most of which was to be exported to China. State-owned China Power Investment Corporation holds an 80-percent stake in the project, in which the other partners are the Myanmar government and one of the country’s biggest conglomerates, Asia World.

“This issue is particularly important with the election coming, and one thing we want to do is start a discussion about the project,” Andrew Limond, the producer of the hour-long documentary, said at a screening in Yangon on October 14. 

Among the main characters in the documentary are Ma Sek Hkawng and her young family. When the documentary begins they are living in riverside Tang Hpe village, but are resettled by CPI to a community known as Aung Myin Thar village where, they say, they have limited opportunities to improve their lives.

“She [Ma Sek Hkawng] wants to raise her children as well as possible, but they do not really have much hope for themselves,” said Ma Cherry Htike, who worked on the documentary and spent more than six months living with villagers affected by the project. 

Mr Limond said CPI had arranged for an environmental impact assessment of the project but it had failed to take into account the dam’s impact on the entire Ayeyarwady River basin, which is home to an estimated 24 million people. “People downstream are increasingly aware of this project and the downsteam impact has to be taken seriously because it is immensely important,” he said.

The documentary also explores drug abuse in Kachin and the conflict there between the Kachin Independence Army, the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation, and the Tatmadaw, which resumed in June 2011 after a 17-year ceasefire. The dam, which would flood a vast swathe of territory controlled by the KIO, had been cited as a source of tension between the two sides.

The KIA, one of the most powerful ethnic armies in Myanmar, was notable by its absence from the ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw on October 15 at which the government signed a national ceasefire agreement with eight ethnic armed groups.

During a recent election campaign visit to Kachin State, National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was asked what would happen to the Myitsone Dam if the NLD formed the next government. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she could not promise that the project would be cancelled, but would ensure that all details of the contract between the government and CPI would be made transparent-- Frontier Myanmar 27 October 2015

 

Myitsone Dam, Kachin Conflict under Spotlight in New Film

RANGOON — A new documentary film premiering in Rangoon this weekend offers a view into the social upheaval and dislocation caused by the Myitsone Dam project in Kachin State.

Produced over four years, including months embedded in the now largely abandoned Tang Hpre village in the dam’s catchment area, Dams, Drugs and Democracy charts community opposition to the dam before and after President Thein Sein announced the controversial megaproject’s suspension in 2011.

Filmmakers follow a group of Tang Hpre residents as they are moved to the Aung Myint Thar resettlement village, constructed by Myitsone project partner Asia World. Villagers say that the homes built by the company, which remains listed on the US Treasury sanctions list as a result of its links to the narcotics trade, are poorly constructed and will not last more than a few years.

“I had to build our concrete foundations,” said Seng Hkawng, 33, who was one of hundreds to be relocated from Tang Hpre after being given a 100,000 kyat (US$78) ex gratia payment. “The roof blew off during the last rainy season. There’s nowhere to find firewood. The builders had no sense of responsibility.”

Elsewhere, the documentary chronicles the introduction of heroin into the local community, as land near Tang Hpre is leased to local gold mining firms and an influx of workers leads to the spread of drug use.

As the majority stakeholder in the dam, a subsidiary of China Power Investment Corp., lobbies for the resumption of construction, the film follows the 2014 protest led by Ye Htut Kaung, which marched from Rangoon to Kachin State in opposition to the project.

“The people who put us in prison are the ones that will be seen as criminals in the eyes of history,” the activist told filmmakers.

Shortly after the march, Ye Htut Kaung was arrested and imprisoned for 12 months under the Peaceful Assembly Act.

Set against the renewed conflict between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organization, which has been ongoing for four years, villagers interviewed in the film said their lives had been turned upside down by the Myitsone project.

“Whenever someone gets into a high position in this country, they only care about their own lives and their own family,” Share Gum Ja, who moved to Tang Hpre in 2002, told filmmakers. The 65-year-old is now living on his own in the village after the death of his wife and mother and in defiance of a ban on former residents returning to their homes.

“They don’t bother with us, unless they have something to take from us, or if they want to force us to work for them.”

When construction on the Myitsone Dam was suspended in 2011, President Thein Sein deferred an ultimate decision on the project until after the 2015 general election. The ultimate fate of the dam remains unclear.-- Sean Gleeson The Irrawaddy 16 October 2015


Awards

Winner, Award of Merit – Impact Docs Awards Angkor Wat International Film Festival -- Official Selection, 2016 Myanmar Film Festival – Official Selection, 2016

Citation

Main credits

Limond, Andrew (film director)
Limond, Andrew (film producer)
Limond, Andrew (director of photography)
Limond, Andrew (editor of moving image work)
Aung, Jack (film director)
Aung, Jack (director of photography)
Aung, Jack (editor of moving image work)
Smith, Tadmur (narrator)

Other credits

Camera and audio, Cherry Htike, Jack Aung, Andrew Limond; editors, Jack Aung, Theo Yeung, Andrew Limond.


Distributor credits

Andy Limond

Andy Limond and Jack Aung

Docuseek2 subjects

Environmental Justice
Asian Studies
History
War and Peace
Ethnography
Water
Rivers and Lakes
Asia
Energy
Government Policy
Journalism and the Press
Citizenship, Social Movements and Activism
Human Rights
Global / International Studies
Indigenous Studies
Hydroelectric
Geography
South Asia

Distributor subjects

Activism
Anthropology
Asia
Asian Studies
Buddhism
China
Christianity
Dams
Democracy
Development
Displaced populations
East Asia
Energy
Environmental Studies
Ethnography
Geography
Global
Studies
International Studies
Government
Government Policy
History
Human Rights
Hydroelectric Power
Insurgency
Mining
Myanmar
Political Science
Refugees
Religion
Rivers
Southeast Asia
United States
War and Peace
Water Management

Keywords

Myanmar; Burma; Kachin State; Myitsone Dam; Myitkyina Laiza Irrawaddy River; Ayeyarwady; "Dams Drugs and Democracy"; insurgency; hydropower China Power International (CPI) ; Ayeyawady Confluence; gold-mining jade; drugs; heroin trade; Daw Seng Hkawng; Brang Nu; Prof. U Maung Maung Aye ; Li Guanghua; Tang Hpre Village; Aung Myin Thar; Kachin IDP camp; Shwedagon Pagoda; Yangon; "Dams; Drugs; Democracy"; Global Environmental Justice;

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