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Burma Related News - April 04, 2002.



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BURMA RELATED NEWS - April 04, 2002.
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HEADLINES
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AFP - Myanmar's number two to visit Thailand
Reuters - Myanmar opposition unhappy with pace of junta talks
Asia Pulse - China Exports Locomotives to Iraq
Reuters - INTERVIEW-Myanmar NLD says junta talks taking too long
Reuters - Myanmar minority force says to end opium growing 
AP - Myanmar makes biggest-ever opium seizure from suspected dealers
Bkk Post - Surayud denies incursion claim
Bkk Post - Junta official confirms visit at month-end
Bkk Post - Inside Politics - Verbal attack
The Nation - Army rejects Rangoon's claim
Xinhuanet - Tourist Arrivals Drop in Myanmar in 2001
Xinhuanet - Myanmar Generates Less Electricity in 2001
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Thursday April 4, 1:36 PM
Myanmar's number two to visit Thailand
 
BANGKOK, April 4 (AFP) - The number two leader in Myanmar's ruling military junta, General Maung Aye, is scheduled to pay a four-day visit to Thailand from 23 April, Thai officials said Thursday.
 
Maung Aye, army chief and vice chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), will be the guest of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, an official said.
 
The general would be the first top Myanmar official known to travel out of the isolated country since the junta announced last month it had snuffed out a coup attempt by relatives of former dictator Ne Win.
 
Ne Win's daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons are to be charged with high treason -- an offence punishable by death -- Yangon has said.
 
Thaksin will host a dinner for Maung Aye on 23 April.
 
Maung Aye will then travel to the southern resort island of Phuket for two days, but little else has been disclosed about his trip.
 
"We are still working out the details of his schedule," an official said.
 
The last visit to Thailand by one of the junta's leaders was in September, when the regime's number three, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, made a three-day sojourn here.
 
A major focus of that visit was an audience with Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej at his seaside palace in Hua Hin.
 
Maung Aye's scheduled trip comes on the heels of a border incident which elevated tensions between the two countries.
 
On March 25 a Thai army unit and the United Wa State Army, an ethnic militia allied with Yangon, were engaged in a clash which left one Thai soldier dead and another injured.
 
The army unit was sweeping the border area in Chiang Mai province prior to a visit by Thailand's Queen Sirikit.
 
Myanmar and Thailand have disputed whether the attack occurred on Thai or Myanmar territory.
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Thursday April 4, 4:23 PM
Myanmar opposition unhappy with pace of junta talks
By Dominic Whiting
 
YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's pro-democracy opposition has said talks between Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta are taking too long and yielding too little but has promised patience to keep the dialogue going.
 
In an interview late on Wednesday, National League for Democracy (NLD) Secretary U Lwin denied speculation his party would pull out of the U.N. brokered talks if Suu Kyi was not freed soon from house arrest by the ruling military.
 
"People say we're getting frustrated, but we have enough patience to wait. For us there's no way out, we have to keep going," U Lwin told Reuters in his party's ramshackle Yangon shop-house headquarters.
 
"In order to make progress in dialogue, it depends on both sides," he said. "But when there is an empty chair on the other side, what can you do?" he said.
 
"Reconciliation is going on and communication has been established. We always have contact, and sometimes there's progress...it's too little, taking too long (a) time."
 
The talks, which began in late 2000, have yielded the release of more than 250 political prisoners and some freedom for the NLD to operate but have not broached the issue of political change.
 
The NLD wants its leader Suu Kyi freed from house arrest immediately and the release of an estimated 1,500 political prisoners, including 17 elected NLD politicians who have languished in jails since the early 1990s.
 
The NLD, led by several ageing former ministers such as U Lwin, swept Myanmar's last democratic elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to rule.
 
COUP OPPORTUNITY
 
The United States, European Union and other Western nations are likely to consider toughening existing trade and aid sanctions on the impoverished Southeast Asian country if the talks completely unravel.
 
U.N. envoy Razali Ismail is due to visit Myanmar on April 22 in a bid to move the process forward, having had a trip last month put off by the government. The junta said it was too busy dealing with an alleged coup attempt by relatives of Ne Win, who ruled Myanmar with an iron fist from 1962 to 1988.
 
In early March, Ne Win and his daughter were put under house arrest, and his son-in-law and three grandsons were arrested on the charge of high treason, which carries the death penalty.
 
Three high-ranking military officers were also arrested and over 100 others have been interrogated in connection with the alleged plot, which authorities said also involved an astrologer dabbling in black magic.
 
But many diplomats are sceptical a coup was being planned and say the clampdown was really an attempt by the junta's leader, Than Shwe, to root out potential opponents. A strengthened Than Shwe is unlikely to loosen his grip on power, they say.
 
U Lwin said the move against the unpopular Ne Win clan could give the regime a chance to ditch the past and move ahead with political change.
 
"NO PERMANENT ENEMIES"
 
"If I was on the other side, the time is appropriate since the departure from the old man's influence," U Lwin, who was a finance minister under Ne Win in the 1970s before falling out of favour, said referring to his former boss.
 
"There's no permanent enemy or permanent friend in politics and we can forget easily. It's about time to cooperate towards the betterment of society," he said.
 
Diplomats say the party now wants to work with the government, especially on social and humanitarian issues, but would shy away from power sharing with a regime that has led the country into economic ruin.
 
Some analysts say the NLD will walk away from the talks if the junta does not make serious concessions soon. But U Lwin said the NLD risked political limbo if it did not stay engaged.
 
"Although we're the opposition we're responsible for bringing happiness and prosperity to the people," he said. "If we're impatient or can't control emotions and anger, who will suffer? The people."
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Thursday April 4, 5:14 PM
China Exports Locomotives to Iraq
 
DALIAN, April 4 Asia Pulse - China has exported 50 locomotives to Iraq, making it the large foreign buyer of Chinese locomotives in a single deal so far.
 
These DF10FI locomotives, which were manufactured by the Dalian Locomotive Plant, recently left the Dalian Port in northeast China's Liaoning Province for the Middle Eastern country.
 
The DF10FI locomotive has a capacity of 1,840 kw, and has a top speed of 140 kph, according to sources.
 
The plant is the largest designer, manufacturer and exporter of internal combustion engines in China.
 
Since its first export to Myanmar in 1993, the factory has sold 205 locomotives, or 80 per cent of the country's total exports, to nine foreign countries in contractual terms.
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Thursday April 4, 1:08 PM
INTERVIEW-Myanmar NLD says junta talks taking too long
By Dominic Whiting
 
YANGON, April 4 (Reuters) - Myanmar's pro-democracy opposition says talks between Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta are taking too long and yielding too little but has promised patience to keep them going.
 
In an interview late on Wednesday, National League for Democracy (NLD) Secretary U Lwin denied speculation his party would pull out of the U.N.-brokered talks if Suu Kyi was not freed soon from house arrest by the ruling military.
 
"People say we're getting frustrated, but we have enough patience to wait. For us there's no way out, we have to keep going," U Lwin told Reuters in his party's ramshackle Yangon shop-house headquarters.
 
"In order to make progress in dialogue, it depends on both sides. But when there is an empty chair on the other side, what can you do?"
 
"Reconciliation is going on and communication has been established. We always have contact, and sometimes there's progress...it's too little, taking too long (a) time."
 
The talks, which began in late 2000, have yielded the release of more than 250 political prisoners and some freedom for the NLD to operate, but have not broached political change.
 
Another senior NLD official, who asked not to be identified, said on Thursday the two sides had yet to start a real dialogue and were still "confidence building".
 
"There must be an advance to a new stage. Dialogue means that anything can be put on the table," he said, adding that ethnic minority groups also needed to be involved in the process.
 
The NLD wants its leader Suu Kyi freed from house arrest and the release of 1,500-1,600 political prisoners, including up to 650 party members. The NLD members include 17 elected NLD politicians who have languished in jails since the early 1990s.
 
NO PRECONDITIONS
 
The NLD source said the party and Suu Kyi were ready for dialogue at any time and had not set preconditions, but the military should show sincerity by freeing all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and let the NLD operate freely.
 
He said Suu Kyi, as head of the NLD, should lead the dialogue from its side. He said she remained optimistic, "but she wishes to be free as soon as possible so she can resume the legitimate activities of a free political party".
 
The NLD, whose leaders include several ageing former ministers such as U Lwin, swept Myanmar's last democratic elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to rule.
 
The United States, European Union and other Western nations are likely to consider toughening trade and aid sanctions on the impoverished Southeast Asian nation if talks completely unravel.
 
U.N. envoy Razali Ismail is due to visit Myanmar on April 22 in a bid to move the process forward, having had a trip last month put off by the government. The junta said it was too busy dealing with an alleged coup attempt by relatives of Ne Win, who ruled Myanmar with an iron fist from 1962 to 1988.
 
In early March, Ne Win and his daughter were put under house arrest, and his son-in-law and three grandsons were arrested on the charge of high treason, which carries the death penalty.
 
Three high-ranking military officers were also arrested and over 100 others have been interrogated in connection with the alleged plot, which authorities said also involved an astrologer dabbling in black magic.
 
But many diplomats are sceptical a coup was being planned and say the clampdown was really an attempt by junta leader Than Shwe to root out potential opponents. A strengthened Than Shwe is unlikely to loosen his grip on power, they say.
 
U Lwin said the move against the unpopular Ne Win clan could give the regime to move ahead with political change.
 
"NO PERMANENT ENEMY"
 
"If I was on the other side, the time is appropriate since the departure from the old man's influence," U Lwin, who was a finance minister under Ne Win in the 1970s before falling out of favour, said referring to his former boss.
 
"There's no permanent enemy or permanent friend in politics and we can forget easily. It's about time to cooperate towards the betterment of society."
 
Diplomats say the party now wants to work with the government, especially on social and humanitarian issues, but would shy away from power-sharing with a regime that has led the country into economic ruin.
 
Some analysts say the NLD will walk away from the talks if the junta does not make serious concessions soon. But U Lwin said the NLD risked political limbo if it did not stay engaged.
 
"Although we're the opposition, we're responsible for bringing happiness and prosperity to the people. If we're impatient or can't control emotions and anger, who will suffer? The people."
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Myanmar minority force says to end opium growing 
 
YANGON, April 4 Reuters? A Myanmar ethnic minority militia group blamed for producing much of the heroin trafficked to the West has pledged to end drug production by 2005, state newspapers reported on Thursday.
 
Pauk Yu Yi, a leader of the Yangon-allied United Wa State Army (UWSA), said the group aimed at turning territories under its control into an ''opium-free zone.'' 
 
''With the assistance provided by the government, we, the Wa people, are carrying out total drug eradication in our region by the year 2005,'' Pauk Yu Yi was reported telling foreign diplomats visiting Wa territory near the Thai border.
 
''Up to 60 percent of the task to eradicate narcotic drugs in the Wa region has been accomplished so far,'' he said, citing opium crop substitution schemes.
 
He did not say who was currently producing the illicit narcotics in Wa territories, but said allegations the Wa were responsible were false.
 
''Regrettably, some nations are making false allegations about the Wa people, saying that they are producing narcotic drugs,'' Pauk Yu Yi said.
 
Officials in the Wa group, which operates out of territory on Myanmar's borders with China and Thailand, have made similar vows to halt opium production in areas under their control in the past.
 
The United States accuses the UWSA of producing much of the opium that is refined into heroin for trafficking to Western countries.
 
Thailand says the UWSA also produces hundreds of millions of methamphetamine tablets each year which flood the Thai market.
 
Myanmar forms one corner of the infamous ''Golden Triangle'' opium-growing region -- along with parts of Thailand and Laos -- which officials say has overtaken Afghanistan as the world's primary source of heroin.
 
The UWSA is one of a number of ethnic minority rebel groups given a degree of autonomy in return for peace deals with Myanmar's ruling military.
 
Western countries, including the United States and its European allies, say Yangon has not done enough to stamp out drugs production by the Wa.
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Myanmar makes biggest-ever opium seizure from suspected dealers
Thu Apr 4, 2:49 AM ET
 
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Security forces seized nearly 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of opium in two raids on a house and a shop last week, an official newspaper reported Thursday.
 
It was the nation's biggest-ever seizure from suspected dealers, though larger amounts have been seized from opium refineries.
 
The Myanmar-language Myanma Ahlin said police, military intelligence units and local militia raided a house in Kut Kai town, about 780 kilometers (480 miles) northeast of Yangon, last Saturday.
 
They also seized 153.94 kilograms (338.68 pounds) of opium hidden in the bedroom of a couple who were arrested. Further investigations led to the seizure of 136.92 kilograms (301.22 pounds) of raw opium from a shop at a market, the report said.
 
The maximum penalty for drug trafficking in Myanmar is death, but it is rarely carried out.
 
According to the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, Myanmar is the world's largest producer of opium, from which heroin is derived.
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Bangkok Post - Thursday 04 April 2002
Surayud denies incursion claim
Army chief refutes Rangoon's allegation
Post reporters
 
Army chief Surayud Chulanont has rejected Burma's claim his troops crossed the border and insisted the March 25 clash with Wa soldiers took place inside Thailand.
 
A patrol of the Pha Muang Task Force was attacked by the United Wa State Army at Ban Pak Saem in Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng district while securing the area for a planned visit by Her Majesty the Queen, he said yesterday.
 
``Thai and Burmese territories there are easily distinguishable, because our terrain has been cleared,'' Gen Surayud said. ``We did not cross the border into Burma.''
 
Armed forces had alerted Burmese soldiers about the royal visit, which was immediately cancelled after the fighting, and had already warned Wa forces about the intrusion, he said.
 
He was reacting to Burma's claim on Monday that the clash took place on its territory and that Thai forces had crossed the border.
 
Maj-Gen Nakhon Sriphetphan, commander of the task force, said UWSA troops had moved 200 metres into Thailand on the day. ``Our duty is to take care of our land,'' he said.
 
Gen Surayud said the army was keeping troops in the area and would take strong action against intruders. ``We are ready to retaliate against any aggression.''
 
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said he would raise the issue tomorrow in Rangoon with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council. He is to visit Burma for talks on a road link with his Burmese and Indian counterparts in Pagan on Saturday.
 
The House committee on foreign affairs said Burma's aide-memoire claiming Thai soldiers had intruded onto Burmese soil was a tacit recognition of the UWSA. Kobsak Chutikul, deputy chairman, said Burma in the past repeatedly denied any involvement with the UWSA and said Wa soldiers were out of its control.
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Bangkok Post - Thursday 04 April 2002
Junta official confirms visit at month-end
Wassana Nanuam
 
Burma's army chief Maung Aye has confirmed he will visit Thailand at the end of this month.
 
A Defence Ministry source yesterday said no date had been fixed but the deputy chairman of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council was expected to arrive around April 27-29.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh would host Gen Maung Aye's three-day visit.
 
He would be a guest of the government and be accorded the same treatment given Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the SPDC's first secretary, when he visited Thailand from Sept 3-5 visit last year, the source said.
 
Gen Maung Aye would be granted an audience with His Majesty the King during his stay.
 
He was also scheduled to play golf with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
 
Co-operation in the battle against drug trafficking along the Thai-Burmese border was expected to top the agenda of Gen Maung Aye's talks with Thai leaders, the source said.
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Bangkok Post - Thursday 04 April 2002
Inside Politics - Verbal attack
 
Attempts by the Burmese junta to discredit the Thai military, at a time of improving ties, surprised analysts --- The majority of the PM's former military academy colleagues were disgruntled with the mid-year reshuffle --- Despite a warrant for his arrest, police failed to notice Wanchalerm Yubamrung at his daddy's soiree
 
Attempts by the Burmese military junta to discredit the Thai military over the latter's alleged military support given to Shan rebels during the SSA's attack on a Burmese military outpost at Pachee last April surprised several senior military officers, amid a report of improved relations between Bangkok and Rangoon.
 
``This is quite unusual'', said a military officer, who questioned why three separate press conferences were held over the past fortnight in Rangoon to criticise the Thai military over border conflicts 12 months earlier.
 
The Burmese military junta said the attack was planned and collaborated by the SSA and the Thai military.''
 
They were referring to the SSA's assault on a Burmese Pachee military outpost in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district. Six Burmese soldiers were reportedly killed and 170,000 tablets of amphetamines seized by SSA troops on April 22, 2001. Uncovering drugs inside Burmese military camps at the border was not uncommon since there was a well-established drug trade involving local Burmese military commanders and the United Wa State Army, the biggest drug traffickers in the Golden Triangle.
 
At the junta's press briefing on March 20, they not only accused the Thai military of giving military support to SSA fighters, but also made the unsubstantiated charge that eight bags of amphetamines were given to SSA soldiers by the Thai military, prior to the assault. The amphetamines were later displayed to a group of Thai reporters after the SSA seized Pachee border outpost.
 
Did the press conference have anything to do with political turmoil inside Rangoon, where a group of senior military officers known for their close military ties with Burmese intelligence chief Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt were removed following a report of their alleged involvement in an aborted coup attempt? A seasoned security officer who has closely monitored developments inside Burma was confident the latest incident was directly related to a power struggle inside Rangoon.
 
Hawkish Burmese army chief Gen Maung Aye, vice-chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, is now viewed in a much stronger light following the removal of Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt's loyalists, including the air force chief, the police chief and a regional army commander. It was no secret that Gen Maung Aye, 65, who had planned to travel to Thailand at the end of the month, was widely known to be much at odds with the intelligence chief.
 
The verbal attack on the Thai military was deemed quite irrational by several security watchers. One suggested the power struggle inside Burma might not turn militarily explosive as long as SPDC chairman Gen Than Shwe is still in command since the premier had acted as a balancing force between the two military men.
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The Nation
Army rejects Rangoon's claim
Published on Apr 4, 2002
 
Commander in chief says fighting prior to Queen's visit took place on Thai soil
 
Burma's version of where Thai troops clashed with the Rangoon-allied United Wa State Army last month - which it said was on its side of the border - was repudiated by the Army Commander in Chief yesterday.
 
"Our soldier was killed when he was in our territory. No Thai troops invaded Burma," General Surayud Chulanont said.
 
A squad from the Third Army Region that was sent to sweep an area in Chiang Mai province where Her Majesty the Queen was to due to travel to a few hours later engaged an armed UWSA group.
 
The ensuing skirmish, in which a Thai soldier was killed and several others injured, forced the cancellation of the Queen's visit. The Foreign Affairs Ministry protested against the border incident on Monday to the Burmese Ambassador.
 
The following day the Burmese government summoned Ambassador Oum Maolanond and handed over a note, disputing Thailand's claim that the incident took place on Thai soil.
 
But the Army chief said there was no reason for Thai forces to stray over the border.
 
"We do our best to protect our sovereignty. We would stay at our base unless we were invaded by foreign troops," he said.
 
The Burmese junta has claimed that it has no control over the UWSA, which has been accused of being a major producer of illicit drugs exported into Thailand from bases in Burma.
 
Thailand was not yet satisfied with how Burma saw the facts, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said yesterday.
 
"The ministry has forwarded the matter to a joint Thai-Burmese border committee so that it can check for more information from the site," he said.
 
Thailand could not make light of the military action.
 
"We understand that it was not Burma's soldiers, but the Wa militia that fought with us. But we want Burma to handle the case of the Wa properly, particularly when it involves our Royal family," he said.
 
However, the government did not interpret Burma's note as trying to escalate the affair.
 
Ambassador Oum told The Nation that it was understandable for Burma to invite him to receive a counter note. "The Foreign Ministry summoned the Burmese envoy [first] to receive an aide memoire, it is a common diplomatic protocol for Burma to invite me to receive its note," Oum said.
 
"The note I received was not a protest note, but a letter that rejected what was reported in the Thai media," he said.
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Tourist Arrivals Drop in Myanmar in 2001
Xinhuanet 2002-04-04 10:31:16
 
YANGON, April 4 (Xinhuanet) -- Tourist arrivals in Myanmar dropped 49.32 percent in the year of 2001, registering 119,027 against 2000's 234,900, the country's Economic Indicators said in its latest issue.
 
The declination of tourist arrivals was attributed to the sharp fall in the number of cross-border tourists from neighboring countries during the year, showing only 5,102, a reduction of 95.57 percent from 2000's 115,328.
 
Myanmar depends largely on cross-border tourism in getting foreign tourists, especially from Thailand and China.
 
Besides being affected by border clashes between Myanmar and Thailand during the first half of 2001, Myanmar's tourism business was also negatively impacted by the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
 
Meanwhile, the Myanmar authorities admitted that the country's tourism industry is under-developed in spite of abundance in favorable conditions in the nation. Although most sites all over Myanmar can attract tourists, implementation of tasks for tourism development is still weak, the authorities warned.
 
To win increased tourist arrivals, Myanmar has taken part in a number of  tourism fairs held in recent years in some Asian countries and regions including Thailand, China's Hong Kong and the Republic of Korea. 
 
In addition, Myanmar is also cooperating with tourism authorities of other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in regional activities including cooperation programs for tourist destinations in the ASEAN region and market promotion activities of nations in the Great Mekong Subregion as well as  Ganges-Mekong cooperation program.
 
To develop its tourism, Myanmar has signed bilateral agreements with China, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand.
 
Official statistics show that since Myanmar opened to foreign investment in late 1988, contracted investment in the sector of hotels and tourism has amounted to 1.054 billion U.S. dollars in 42 projects.
 
The country set a target to draw 500,000 foreign tourists annually.
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Myanmar Generates Less Electricity in 2001
Xinhuanet 2002-04-04 10:32:59
 
YANGON, April 4 (Xinhuanet) -- Electric power generated by the Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE), a state-run main electricity supplier of the country, totaled 4,799.36 million kilowatt-hours (kwh) in the year of 2001, a 4.5-percent reduction from 2000, said the latest issue of the government Economic Indicators.
 
Meanwhile, there was no increase in the installed generating capacity (IGC) of the MEPE, remaining at 1,172 mega watts (mw) over the period from April 2000 to the end of 2001.
 
According to the MEPE, since 1988, Myanmar's IGC has increased by 509 mw, of which IGC of natural gas power plants rose by 255 mw, while that of steam power ones by 143 mw and that of hydropower ones by 111 mw.
 
To ease serious electricity shortage in the country, Myanmar is building five more hydropower plants -- Paunglaung, Zaungtu, Mone, Thaphanseik and Maipan, three of which are being built by China.
 
Upon their completion, the five power plants will add 407 mw more to Myanmar's IGC. 
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