By Ben Blanchard and Aung Hla Tun | Reuters
BEIJING/YANGON, 20 August 2016
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday China wants to ensure relations develop in the “correct direction”, as Myanmar activists wrote to Xi saying they want China to address concern about a stalled dam project.
China has been on a diplomatic offensive since Suu Kyi’s government came to power in April, aiming to forge good ties with its resource-rich neighbour.
“The people in Myanmar stand at a new starting point for a splendid future of the country,” Xi told Suu Kyi.
“We should adhere to the correct direction, to push for new progress in bilateral relations and to bring tangible benefits to the two peoples.”
He made no mention of the Chinese-invested $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project in comments in front of reporters.
Former Myanmar President Thein Sein angered China in 2011 when he suspended work on the hydro-power dam, at the confluence of two northern rivers in the Ayeyarwady river basin, after it drew widespread protests on environmental grounds.
China has been pushing for work to restart on the dam, which under the original plans would have sent 90 percent of its power to China.
A Myanmar commission reviewing the project, and other proposed hydro-power dams, is expected to report by 11 November.
Chinese state radio paraphrased Suu Kyi as saying the commission would try to find the “best resolution” for the dam issue, though she said she had no way of knowing what that was.
In Myanmar’s largest city of Yangon, a group of 60 civil society groups on Thursday sent a letter to Xi via China’s embassy saying they hoped China was giving proper thought to their concerns.
“We believe the People’s Republic of China will take into serious consideration the fact that the opinion of Myanmar’s people has never been sought extensively enough since the Myitsone project was first conceived,” the groups said in their letter.
Thwin Linn Aung of Genuine People’s Servants, one of the organizers of the letter, told Reuters they had sent it to show support for Suu Kyi and ask China “not to apply pressure on her”.
Finding a solution to the Myitsone project is important for Suu Kyi who needs China’s cooperation in talks with Myanmar ethnic minority armed groups operating along the border with China.
Suu Kyi said Myanmar would work hard with China on border stability and not allow anything to happen which could affect “friendly relations” with its neighbours, Chinese state television said.
Xi said China would continue to play a “constructive role” in promoting Myanmar’s peace process, the report added.