The first railway track in Arakan State, which was opened by Prime Minister Lt. General Thein Sein on 19 May, 2009, collapsed in heavy rains on Monday, stopping the new train from running the route.

A monk confirmed the incident over the phone, saying, “The railway route was being repaired but needs some more time before operating normally. It was damaged after a mudslide under the railway track.”

The railway route currently runs between Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, and the Government Technical College located 11 miles to the west.

The opening ceremony of the railway track on 19 May was presided over by the Prime Minister and had thousands of people turn out to see the train. Since there is no other railway track in Arakan State, people all around Sittwe attended the ceremony to see and ride the new train.

During the ceremony, Lt. General Thein Sein told attendees that Arakan State would be more advanced in the future because the railway would promote development of the state. He added that any region or province is in need of a good railway route and highway in order to be developed, and without such roads, development in the region would be impossible. He urged local Arakanese people to utilize the opportunity for the state’s development.

The state-run newspapers, TV, and radio aired the Prime Minister’s speech and the ceremony on their respective channels with highlights for people across Burma.

“Prime Minister Thein Sein’s speech is good but not in line with practice and reality. Now the railway route has broken down and the train is stopped, just 20 days after the railway was opened,” the monk said.

The railway was quickly constructed by the local army authority so that it could be opened before the rainy season, causing construction shortcuts. Because of that, the foundation of the railway is not strong.

After the railway route broke down, people in Sittwe, primarily students from GTC have avoided traveling by train.

This stretch of railroad is the first of a 250-mile rail route that is being constructed from Sittwe to Ann in Arakan State to Minbu Town in Burma proper. The project began in February of this year.

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