Her voice is strong: Nang Shining works to save 40,000 homes

Mekong dams threaten the ethnic group of Shan.

By Worawan Sukraroek, Capacity Building and Networking Coordinator, Phnom Penh.

In southern Myanmar, a dam is being built which will flood an area the size of Singapore and impact more than 200,000 people.

Nang Shining grew up in a community that’s threatened by the dam, and has become a powerful voice for the rights of people in her community.

Developments like the $6 billion Mong Ton dam are happening at break-neck pace across the Mekong Region, in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Often the appeal of economic development means that people who hold the power don’t consider how dams like this will affect the lives of ordinary people.

Dams can destroy livelihoods and wreck communities. Shining wants to change that, and Oxfam has been working with her to help promote better understanding about the project.

Problems like this aren’t new to her. Since childhood, she has seen the consequences of logging, displacement and war, but despite growing up in insecurity, Shining has become a leader in her community and in the Mekong region, leading an NGO called Weaving Bonds Across Borders.

Shining told us, “the Mong Ton dam would flood large communities who live in the reservoir and cause massive displacement of thousands of people. This is one of the biggest threats to Shan’s [an ethnic group] natural resources and culture”.

Weaving Bonds Across Borders works to build understanding and help communities to stand up for their needs. They run campaigns for public awareness, and advocate for the needs of their communities.

This kind of advocacy work never stops. A recent example was a meeting between local communities and Australian consultancy firm called Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC), the company who have been contracted to carry out environment and social impact assessment of Mong Ton dam.

Shining engages in government meetings and negotiation with EIA Company to raise concerns from her communities.

Shining collected the concerns of local communities and demanded a voice in the meeting, ensuring that local power-holders and large companies heard her and understood the concerns of her community.

Oxfam works closely with local partners on the ground to effect positive, long-lasting change. Learn more about Oxfam’s work in the Mekong.