News / Asia

China-Backed Railway Expansion Stalls in Myanmar

Gabrielle Paluch

Three years ago China and Myanmar signed an agreement to construct a high-speed rail network that would connect China’s Yunnan Province to the Bay of Bengal.

But last month, the three-year memorandum of understanding expired, leaving the network's future in doubt.

Myanmar officials said plans for a $20 billion high-speed railway that would have linked a sleepy seaport in one of Myanmar's poorest states to Kunming, Yunnan's provincial capital, were never realized, and no construction has been started.

But Chinese authorities said they are not giving up.

Rail near pipeline

The train would have run alongside the already completed Shwe natural gas pipeline, built by the Chinese. A road was to be built as well.
 
Railway Ministry director Myint Wai said last month the project was canceled because it was the will of the Myanmar people.

Wai said there are "no plans to implement this project, and the [agreement] has expired so we will not carry on the project, in accordance with the public's demand."
 
Similar large-scale joint venture projects between China and Myanmar have sparked popular opposition, mostly from the local people who would be affected by the construction.

These projects include a mega-dam for hydropower on the Myitsone River in Kachin state that appears to have been successfully suspended, and a Chinese-run Latpedaung copper mine in upper Myanmar.
 
Wong Aung, an activist with the Shwe Gas Movement, said canceling large-scale infrastructure projects with the Chinese is a way the nominally civilian government makes a break with the former military government.
 
"When they started to build the pipeline, at the time there had been a lot of military operations and a lot of people were still being oppressed under the military junta," Aung said. 

"So now we consider this a kind of political development under the so-called civilian government under President Thein Sein. [The] President usually mentioned about people's participation and a kind of democratization which could create a kind of platform for local people to take control and voice their concerns," Aung said.

Still interested

Chinese ambassador Yang Houlan said the plan has not yet been abandoned by China.

In a statement to VOA, Houlan said, "China and Myanmar have jointly fulfilled the project's design," and the "Chinese side is ready to continue working on the project."
 
Houlan said the project is part of the planned Trans-Asian Railway Network, that would link all countries in continental Southeast Asia and Singapore to China, by Chinese-built high-speed railways, as per an agreement signed in 2009.

The project was dubbed the "Iron Silk Road" by the Chinese government, and is intended to bring economic development to resource rich countries bordering China, and allow China access to more ports.

Few participating countries have actually acted on the agreement.
 
However, anti-Chinese sentiment is strong in Myanmar - for decades during the socialist era deadly anti-Chinese riots flared up regularly.

While Myanmar's Rakhine state is badly in need of development, a special economic zone and a planned deep-sea port in Kyaukpyu have not delivered the sorts of basic infrastructure and services that many of Rakhine state's residents need.

Angered by Chinese projects

Activist Aung said he thinks it's unlikely the Chinese-backed project will come to fruition.
 
"This is one of the obvious examples of how people are being angered against Chinese projects That's why the railway minister would like to express their concern and try to end the MoU, which has already expired," Aung said.
 
A regional rail network throughout Southeast Asia has been seriously discussed for more than 100 years,when British and French colonial rulers sketched out plans for a Kunming to Singapore railway.

Since then, governments have routinely discussed the idea, but the plans have repeatedly run into logistical and financial problems.

This week Thailand’s military junta announced plans for a $23 billion railway upgrade in Thailand, which would become part of the long-planned regional network. 

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Charles Ward from: Fauquier, Virginia, USA
August 02, 2014 10:21 AM
Is there confusion between 'high speed' rail and 'freight rail' which is not high speed? There are no 'high speed freight' rail lines, if you mean 250 kph. Freight doesn't need to move that fast, but it does need to move as inexpensively as possible.

The problem for all of this is 'chicken and egg': the high cost of new rail, especially 250 kph, can be recouped only by large volumes of freight and passengers. Does that high volume exist? Will it in 5 years or 10? Who wants to make that gamble?


by: John Paul from: Dublin
August 01, 2014 8:21 PM
If burmese government willing to upgrade their 1954 style railway system, they need to frankly ask for help to american.....I think US government always interested in previous burma's political transform


by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
August 01, 2014 6:49 PM
When Burma imposed self-isolation, China was her closest ally both geographically and ideologically. Now Burma is open and it tries to redue ite reliance on China. China may not like it because Burma is learning to play one country against the other to China's dismay. China would have to adjust and learn as much as Burma.


by: william li from: canada
August 01, 2014 10:38 AM
China is patient, we can wait, there is no rush. but if you want to develop then you need infrastructure, if you need infrastructure then you need China, or you can spend double money to buy from Japanese, your choice. no matter how hard you try to hold, you just couldn't avoid China's influence! the world belongs to China!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid