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 Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
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 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 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.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid