Myanmar's Suu Kyi to ink deals on two hospitals, bridge during China trip

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (REUTERS) - China and Myanmar are set to sign deals to build a strategic bridge near their border and two hospitals in the Southeast Asian country, a Myanmar official said on Thursday (Aug 18), as leader Aung San Suu Kyi meets high-level officials in Beijing.

Suu Kyi, who is barred from the presidency by a junta-drafted constitution but holds several government posts including that of foreign minister, arrived in China on Wednesday evening.

She is scheduled to meet Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday and President Xi Jinping on Friday, with the fate of a suspended Chinese-funded hydropower project in northern Myanmar in the balance.

"Grant agreements will be signed on the construction of two hospitals and a bridge between the two sides during this visit,"Aye Aye Soe, deputy director-general at Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Reuters.

The two hospitals will be built in Myanmar's two largest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, she said.

The bridge is aimed to improve transport and communication between the countries and will be built in Kunlong town, 32km from the border in northeastern Myanmar.


Kunlong is on the way to a border checkpoint and near the Kokang region where an ethnic Chinese rebel group fought Myanmar's military last year.

Aye Aye Soe declined to give further details, including the terms of financing of the projects or the timeframe.

The visit is Suu Kyi's first major diplomatic foray as de facto leader, after a new government took power in April following her National League for Democracy's sweeping election victory in November.

The China-funded US$3.6 billion (S$4.8 billion) Myitsone dam project was planned for the confluence of two rivers that form the Ayeyarwady river, but has been stalled since 2011, when former President Thein Sein suspended the project amid widespread opposition on environmental grounds.

China has been pushing for work to restart on the dam, which under the original plans would have sent 90 per cent of its power to China.

A Myanmar government commission reviewing the project - as well as other proposed hydropower dams, including several on the Thanlwin river - is expected to report by Nov 11.