Club Dinner: “Dams, Drugs & Democracy: The Struggle for Resources in Kachin State, Myanmar”
The film followed a plan to dam the Irrawaddy River at its source: Myitsone, in Kachin State, northern Myanmar, and all its ensuing consequences. Local villagers had been forcibly relocated, disrupting their traditional way of life. The impact on downstream areas in the rest of the country was potentially enormous, prompting popular protest. Most of the electricity from this gigantic hydropower project was supposed to be delivered to China, so a sudden halt in construction had geopolitical ramifications.
The film placed the Myitsone Dam in the context of the Kachin insurgency, which had continued for more than five decades as all sides had struggled to 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, followed dam protesters, and interviewed key players: local politicians, insurgent leaders, independent observers, and those behind the delayed Myitsone Dam project. All of this takes place at a time of significant political and societal change in Myanmar.
Myanmar would hold general elections later this month. Momentous and far-reaching decisions would soon be taken. Could a ceasefire transition into a more permanent peace deal, and would the Myitsone Dam project be restarted following the election? What was the future for Kachin State and Myanmar? The film’s producer discussed it after the screening.