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 imageJason A.Carbine, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Whittier College

You might also be interested in...

Dams, Drugs and Democracy

New to the Global Environmental Justice Project? Please register and login to preview and/or license this film. If your institution has already licensed this film, you will need to access this page from your institution's network to watch the film. For help on using the Docuseek2 platform, please visit our help wiki.

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.

Dams, Drugs and Democracy

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 teacher's guide for maps, background information and suggested subjects, questions and activities.

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 the teacher's guide for Dams, Drugs and Democracy (PDF)

Teachers guide for Dams Drugs Democracy


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








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





You live at the crossroads of East and South Asia


You border the most populated nations on the planet





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




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






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




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




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

Burmese Proverb




Myitsone, Kachin State




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





Tang Hpre Village

Northern Kachin State

Population: 1,000




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






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






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




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




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




Promotional Video Courtesy of China Power Investment





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





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




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%





China Power Investment

Office Compound, Yangon




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









Li Guanghua

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



Li Guanghua


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



And started the initial hydroelectricity surveys and research work



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



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



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



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



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



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



…the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Social Impact Assessment… 



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





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    








Aung Myin Thar (New Village)



Li Guanghua



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




Aung Myin Thar

Resettlement Village



Li Guanghua






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



And also getting electricity (for free)



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



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



In fact we even made them a little bit bigger



We have constructed five churches












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




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




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




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





Capital of Kachin State





‘Blast’ Band

Anti-dam Activists and Musicians




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




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





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




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




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




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





Baptist Church

Tang Hpre Village



Teacher and students



…in order to be active…


…was campaigned for…


…on that day


National Day…


…should not be forgotten





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




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








near Myitkyina




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   






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




Sedona Hotel, Yangon

December 2013





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




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



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



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





Shwedagon Pagoda






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




Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam Project


Stop it completely!


Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam Project


Stop it completely!



Ye Htut Kaung






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





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





Entrance to CPI Work Area

Near Myitsone





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!





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






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





Aung Myin Thar

Resettlement Village



Monk with novices

Alms for monks





Buddhist Temple

Aung Myin Thar Village





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






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





Laiza, KIO Headquarters

on the China-Myanmar Border




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





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






Capital of Kachin State





Dr Manam Tu Ja (65)



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





Lots of soldiers are moving forward towards us






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




They are coming






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







They are Burmese soldiers




Nobody is ready yet


Go! Go! We must all go!







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






KIA Military Hospital

behind the frontlines




Injured Soldier


It hurts! It hurts so much!





Dr Manam Tu Ja (65)







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






Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG)






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




IDP Camp

near Myitkyina





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






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





The Shelling of Laiza

by the Myanmar military

January 2013





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






Learn from each other


Empower your race





Peace-talks between KIO and

Myanmar Government, May 2013





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





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





Peace Pagoda

Aung Myin Thar





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



We think that basically, most people support this dam project



Now there are a few voices which are in opposition…



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





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





Tang Hpre Village

Site of the Myitsone Dam




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





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





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






The people of Myitsone

Blast Band

Path of Flowers Panyelann

Prodigal Son - Brightside Studio





Jack Aung

Theo Yeung

Andrew Limond





Jack Aung

Andrew Limond



Narrator & Assistant Producer


Tadmur Smith





Andrew Limond


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





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


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


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
War and Peace
Rivers and Lakes
Government Policy
Journalism and the Press
Citizenship, Social Movements and Activism
Human Rights
Global / International Studies
Indigenous Studies
South Asia

Distributor subjects

Asian Studies
Displaced populations
East Asia
Environmental Studies
International Studies
Government Policy
Human Rights
Hydroelectric Power
Political Science
Southeast Asia
United States
War and Peace
Water Management


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;

Welcome to Docuseek2!

Docuseek2 is a streaming platform of the best documentary and social issue films available for the higher education community.

Anyone may search for titles and find detailed information about the titles. To preview films or license them for streaming, you must register and login.

Currently, we support online registration for anyone affiliated with a higher education institution. Please inquire if you are with a K-12 district or school or with a public library.

Click the Close button to get started!