4 Chinese workers from the Tasang hydropower project disappeared on 17 May probably causing a pain in the backside for President Thein Sein who is scheduled to visit Beijing the day after tomorrow, 26 May, according to sources from Mongton, opposite Chiangmai.
“If they aren’t found before he leaves, it’ll be a fly in the ointment throughout his trip,” a businessman on the Thai-Burma commented.
It might even cost a job and a future for Col Tun Tun Shwe, the commander in Pongpakhem, south of Mongton, who is responsible for the area security. He is now personally monitoring the developments at Ta Hsala, just a few miles south of the project dam site.
The 4 Chinese reportedly took a motorboat upstream, “with maps and local guides” last Tuesday, coinciding with the Buddhist holy day of the Vesak and failed to return in the evening. The next day, 27 truckloads of soldiers from Mongton went down to the dam site on the Salween and scoured the surrounding area for 4 days. On 21 May, they returned to their home bases empty-handed.
The area is under heavy security provided by 3 Infantry Battalions (#43, 49 and 225) and 1 Light Infantry Battalion (#519) plus a local militia led by Panta of Ta Hsala.
Apart from the Chinese workers believed to be from the Three Gorges Group Corporation there are also a number of officials from Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).
Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, whose anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) fighters are active outside the security perimeter dismissed speculations that his troops might be involved. “We have no reason to do it (any kidnapping),” he told SHAN this morning from his Loi Taileng base, further southwest on the Maehongson-Mongpan border. “The Burma Army commanders must be trying to shift reasonability to us.”
He promised to help find out the truth “if I’m requested by the Chinese company concerned.”
The SSA’s 701st Force is also active on the Sino-Burma border in Namkham township. Naypyitaw has reportedly lodged complaints with Chinese authorities in the past all to no avail.
The Tasang dam project since the survey began in 1997 by Thailand’s MDX Group, has been opposed by a score of human rights and environmental movements that are united under the umbrella group called Salween Watch.