New video documents a people threatened with extinction by Salween dams

Salween Watch Coalition
Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Exclusive footage from remote Karenni State, Burma, documents the lives and environment of an ethnic group that faces extinction from the controversial Salween dams. One of the dam's reservoirs would completely submerge the homelands of the Yin Ta Lai people, of whom only 1,000 remain.

Damning the Yin Ta Lai, a 13-minute video documentary that premieres today, captures rare footage from the thick rainforest that will be inundated by the Weigyi dam, one of the five planned for the Salween. Scenes of riverbank farming and fishing depict how the villagers rely on the natural flow of the river.

The video also includes interviews with Karenni farmers affected by the Mobye dam built in 1966. "They said the dam would bring development but we haven't seen any" says the Yin Ta Lai narrator of the movie.

The Yin Ta Lai people have been living for centuries in the central part of Karenni State, in the areas along the Salween and Pawn rivers. They are believed to be the original ancestors of all present-day Karenni peoples. Footage of cultural festivals shows how the Karenni pay respects to the Yin Ta Lai heritage.

The Karenni Research Development Group (KDRG), who produced the movie, is planning screenings in several countries to raise awareness of the plight of the Yin Ta Lai.

"The Yin Ta Lai will become extinct if this dam goes ahead. While Burma's regime gains profits from selling electricity, we will bear the costs" said Aung Ngyeh, a spokesperson of KDRG and secretary of the Burma Rivers Network. "We urge all parties to suspend plans for the Salween dams."

The military junta ruling Burma is planning to build five dams on the Salween River with financial backing from Thai and Chinese companies. In addition to the Yin Ta Lai, the Weigyi dam will permanently displace an estimated 30,000 people in Burma's smallest state. The series of dams will adversely affect well over half a million people living along the river in Burma.

Media contacts: 

To learn more visit Salween Watch or contact Aung Ngyeh:

            Phone: 084 363 6603 (in Thailand), +66 84 363 6603 (international)

More information: 

The full film is available in Yin Ta Lai, English, Thai, Chinese, and Burmese from KDRG. A preview the film can be viewed at