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Myanmar negotiates US$20b Chinese railway project
Publication Date : 03-10-2013
A US$20 billion high-speed railway project that plans to connect the coastal town of Kyaukphyu, Rakhine State with Kunming in southern China is still at a proposal stage, according to Myanmar government sources.
There have been growing concerns from activist groups and local residents over the lack of transparency and the failure to release an environmental assessment report on the project.
"We are still at the negotiation stage for the railway project at the moment. As we are still negotiating about it, nothing is definite. China has submitted the proposal but [the project] can only be continued with approval from this side," said an official from the Ministry of Rail Transportation, who requested not to be named.
"We will only accept this if it offers opportunities for the country and everyone–the public, the government, and the parliament–agreed to it," he said.
According to the ministry, China will fully fund the $20 billion railway project, providing easy access to the Indian Ocean trade routes through an 800km high-speed railway network.
China already operates the Shwe oil and natural gas pipelines that start near Kyaukphyu, and run through Mandalay, Lashio, and Muse before entering China at the border city of Ruili in Yunnan province.
Thailand-based activist group Shwe Gas Movement has announced that the railway project is expected to be completed in 2015.
China plans to build and operate the railway and eventually hand it back to Myanmar after 50 years. High-speed trains will carry up to 4,000 tons of goods running at speeds of up to 170 km per hour, according to a report from Arkan Oil Watch.
Arakan Oil Watch have also reported that the Ministry of Rail Transportation signed a memorandum of understanding for the project with China's Railways Engineering Corporation in April 2011.
The proposed railway project is 868.262 kilometres long (539.19 miles) and will pass through Kyaukphyu, Ahn, Mandalay, Lashio and Muse.
The project includes 79 train stations, 409 bridges, and 101 tunnels and will connect with Kunming in southern China.