Villages Threatened with Relocation for Railway

3/25/2009

Kyauktaw: Many lands have been confiscated by the Burmese military authority for a new railway route through Arakan State and some villages are facing relocation to make way for the tracks, said a villager from the region.
“The army authority confiscated many lands that are situated on the railway route and owned by local Arakanese farmers, without any compensation, to make way for the new route from Sittwe to Ann. Some villages from Kyauktaw Township have been ordered to relocate to other places to clear a path for the railway route,” he said.

The villages facing dislocation are Tharet Thaphin, Sapa Sit, Shwe Talay, Pyin Hla, Nyung Pin Hla, and Kung Duck. They are situation near the temple of the great image of Mahamuni in Kyauktaw Township and have been ordered by the Burmese military authorities to relocate to other places in order to clear the path for construction of the railway route and station.

There is also a rumor that the military authority is preparing to build an airport in the area and the villages are being forced to relocate to make room for this. The villager said, “I heard the authority will build an airport near Tharet Tapin Village and Prime Minister General Thein Sein visited the area last month. However the airport will be for the military, not for tourists to visit the ancient sites.”

The Burmese military has been building up its capacity in Arakan State since the beginning of this year. Battalions, including artillery battalions, were brought in to Arakan State from Burma proper as reinforcements.

Many people believe the railway is also being constructed for military purposes because new railways are not necessary for local Arakanese people at present due to the poor economy in the state.

A teacher from Sittwe said, “The construction of the railway route in Arakan State is good but we need business development at first. Without business development, the railway is not useful for the people.”

Military authorities in many townships, including Sittwe, Ponna Kyunt, Kyauktaw, Mrauk U, and Minbya, that are located along the railway route, have been confiscating farmlands and gardens for construction on the path of the new railway.

In Arakan State, there is currently just 16 miles of railway laid between Buthidaung and Maungdaw that was built during colonial rule and has not been added to since the British left Burma in 1948.

The railway route between Sittwe, the capital of Arakan, and Ann, where the Western Command Headquarters are stationed, will be the first rail constructed in Arakan since independence from Britain. The railway will eventually be connected to the western Irrawaddy River in Burma proper. Narinjara News

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