By Roseanne Gerin
The Lao dam disaster in July that resulted in heavy flooding in two provinces that left at least 40 people dead and displaced 7,000 others has drawn both regional and international attention to the potential dangers of Southeast Asia’s current dam-building spree.
With plans for 11 large dams either proposed or under construction on the mainstream of the lower Mekong River in Laos and Cambodia, and for about 140 dams on Mekong tributaries in Laos, more disasters are likely to occur, experts say.
By Roseanne Gerin
Instances of malaria in remote and rural locations in Myanmar have fallen dramatically during a six-year period as a result of trained community health care workers providing a wider package of services along with screenings for the disease transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical regions, a study has found.
Some of the five ethnic armed groups that have not signed Myanmar’s nationwide cease-fire accord will attend talks with the committee responsible for holding political dialogue and convening peace conferences, as stakeholders in the country’s stalled peace process continue to iron out their differences, those involved said on Tuesday.
The governor of a province in Laos hit by flooding from a dam breach earlier this year has issued conflicting estimates of the projected cost to house displaced persons, giving figures deemed unnecessarily high by another official source and contradicting statements he himself had made earlier in an interview.
On July 23, water poured over a saddle dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower project in Champassak in southern Laos, sweeping away homes and causing severe flooding in up to 12 villages downstream in Champassak and neighboring Attapeu province.
The Myanmar Army and an ethnic armed group in eastern Myanmar’s Kayah state have blamed each other for breaching a bilateral cease-fire agreement during a weekend clash in Hpa Saung township that left no casualties.
The national army’s Light Infantry Brigade 428 clashed with soldiers from the Karenni Army, the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) on Oct. 20.
The 10 ethnic armed groups that have signed a nationwide peace accord with the Myanmar government agreed in principle on Tuesday to a key military demand that they fold their militias into a single national army and to extend dialogue to ethnic armies outside the cease-fire agreement, participants said.
Myanmar’s largest non-state army is detaining several Christian clergy members for questioning and destroying churches in its self-proclaimed autonomous areas bordering China and Thailand in Shan state, according to a statement issued by the group.
The United Wa State Army (UWSA), a 30,000-strong ethnic armed group comprising the military wing of the United Wa State Party (UWSP), the de facto ruling party of the self-declared Wa state not officially recognized by the Myanmar government, has conducted these activities since Sept. 13, sources said.
The number of dead continues to climb as updated reports come in from remote areas of Laos hit by flooding and landslides in recent weeks, Lao sources say.
In Houaphanh province in eastern Laos, heavy rains last week poured down a mountain into a valley, flooding a small river and slamming into villages nearby, an official of the province’s Labor and Social Welfare Department told RFA’s Lao Service on Thursday.
Representatives of ethnic armies based along the China-Myanmar border met briefly with Myanmar government peace negotiators on Wednesday in a get-together described as positive but yielding little in the way of specific proposals, a spokesman for one of the militias told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Representatives from a coalition of ethnic armies based along the China-Myanmar border will meet with members of the government’s peace commission in southwest China on Wednesday to discuss ways to end decades of civil war, a spokesman for one of the militias told RFA on Tuesday.
The meeting will mark the first time that the Union Peace Commission is meeting with the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), said TNLA spokesman Brigadier General Ta Phone Kyaw.
Widespread flooding in Laos in recent weeks has blocked the start of the school year in the Southeast Asian country, with as many as 1,000 schools left unable to open by the Sept. 3 beginning of the new term, Lao sources say.
Speaking to RFA’s Lao Service on Aug. 30, an official of the Ministry of Education and Sports said that most primary and secondary schools in the country will not open next week.
NGOS and a local government disaster management worker took the Myanmar government to task on Thursday for failing to issue a warning that a breach in a spillway of the Swar dam in Bago region would flood dozens of villages, a day after the catastrophe killed one person and displaced tens of thousands of others.
Flooding from heavy rainfall has killed at least six people in northern Laos’ Luang Prabang province since the weekend, an official from the provincial Labor and Social Welfare Department said Thursday, as the Southeast Asian is battered by seasonal monsoons.
“Six are dead — two in Nam Bak district, one in Luang Prabang city, one in Ngeun district, and one in Ngon district, plus one child from an unknown location,” said the official who declined to be named.
The collapse of a spillway of a dam in central Myanmar’s Bago region early Wednesday caused flooding that killed one woman and left six others missing as it submerged roughly 60 villages and affected more than 63,400 people, a regional lawmaker said.
Those displaced by the breaching of the spillways of the Swar dam in Swar township have moved to Yedashe and Taungoo townships where they are staying in monasteries or temporary camps after their houses were partly or completely inundated with water.
The Lao government’s offer of nearly U.S. $200 to the families of the 40 Laotians confirmed to have perished in flooding caused by a dam collapse in the southwestern part of the country last month is not sufficient, a retired health official said.
Families have been offered 1.7 million Lao kip (U.S. $198) for each person who died as a result of devastating floods triggered by a breach in a saddle dam at the U.S. $1 billion Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydropower project in Champasak province on July 23.
More than 1,000 families in northeast Cambodia’s Stung Treng province are facing extreme difficulties after heavy rainfall led a tributary of the Mekong River to flood their commune for the third time in a month, according to residents, who said a controversial hydropower dam was to blame.
Pey Mey, a resident of Sesan district’s Talat commune, told RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday that the Sesan River had overflowed its banks for the third time since the end of July, forcing the families from five villages in the commune to evacuate to higher ground.
Eight young Tibetans who fled authoritarian rule in China in pursuit of a religious and cultural education without restrictions have arrived at a refugee center in India after being held for nearly a month by authorities in Nepal, according to members of the group.
More than 5,000 Laotians living in temporary camps in Attapeu province following displacement by flooding from a dam collapse last month in neighboring Champassak province have appealed to the Lao government for more food, basic necessities, and cooking utensils, saying that officials have failed to deliver on a pledge to help them.
Laos has suspended consideration of new hydropower projects in the country pending reviews of development policy after the breach of a dam last month left at least 34 dead with 100 still missing, Lao sources say.
The announcement followed an August 6-7 meeting of the country’s cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith at which plans were also made to carry out safety inspections of all hydropower projects already built or under construction in the Southeast Asian country.
Around 300 villagers in northern Myanmar’s Shan state fled their homes on Thursday, fearing renewed fighting between the national military and ethnic armed groups seen approaching Namtu township, according to local sources.
Northern Alliance troops had taken up positions around Mangche village, where farmers saw them,” Mi Lenda, chief of Namtu’s Panglon village, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“These farmers told other villagers, and they fled their homes,” he said.