Series of explosions reported at hydroelectric project in Burma


JUST DAYS after downtown Rangoon was rocked by bombs that killed eight and wounded 170 during a new year celebration, a series of explosions was reported at a controversial hydropower project in northern Burma on Saturday. There was no information about any casualties or damage.

The fact that the explosions happened in the north could mean that they were the work of anti-government dissident groups and separatist ethnic rebels seeking autonomy.

The hydroelectric project on the Irrawaddy river was being jointly developed by China Power Investment Corporation and the Burmese firm Asia World Company.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962. The junta is keen to establish control over a handful of armed ethnic groups along its borders to ensure smooth conditions for next year’s polls, the first in nearly 20 years.

In 1990, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a general election but was not allowed to take power by the military, which continues to maintain a tight grip on the country.

She remains under house arrest in Rangoon and has been in detention without trial for more than 15 of the past 21 years.

Many local ethnic groups, including the Karen National Union, the Shan State Army South, and the Karenni National Progressive Party, as well as a government-in-exile known as the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, say the elections are a sham to bring them into line and give the impression that Burma is being democratised.

China is keen to exploit Burma’s gas reserves and has spent €750 million on a 1,100-km long gas and oil pipeline.

In May 2005 three bombs exploded at a convention centre and supermarkets, killing 11 people and wounding more than 160. There have been several bombings since then.