Bomb blasts rock China JV hydropower site in Myanmar

YANGON (Reuters) - A series of bombs exploded at a controversial hydropower project site being jointly built by a Chinese company in northern Myanmar on Saturday, just two days after bombs killed eight in the former capital of Yangon.

There was no immediate report of casualties or damage.

“We don’t have any further details about it as yet,” said a government official who asked not to be identified since he was not allowed to talk to the media.

Myanmar’s junta has in the past blamed bombings on anti-government dissident groups and separate ethnic rebels seeking autonomy in the former Burma, which has been under military rule since 1962.

China’s state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) and Myanmar’s private Asia World Company jointly launched the hydropower project on the upper reaches of the giant Irrawaddy river at the end of last year.

The plant is near where the Maykha-Malikha rivers join, the official from the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina, about 920 miles north of Yangon, told Reuters.

Located about 22 miles north of Myitkyina and about 50 miles from the Chinese border, it is estimated the project will generate 3,600 megawatts when completed, and most of the electricity will be exported to China.

The project has caused concern among local people and environmentalists since it involves the relocation of several villages and may cause ecological damage to the Irrawaddy, the life blood of Myanmar which flows from north to south.

The blasts came two days after three bomb explosions in former capital Yangon killed eight people and wounded 170 during the traditional New Year water festival.

In May 2005, three bombs exploded at a convention center and supermarkets in Yangon, killing 23 people and wounding more than 160. There have been a few sporadic bombings since.

At the time, the authorities blamed ethnic rebel 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, which opposes the junta’s rule.

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.

An election is expected to be held later in the year but no timeframe has been set. The poll has been widely derided in advance as a sham to make the country appear democratic, with the military retaining control over key institutions.

Writing by Nick Macfie in Bangkok