Myanmar’s government has pledged to adequately compensate landowners along a 800-kilometre route for a rail link from China to the Bay of Bengal, reports said Sunday.
Minister for Railways Aung Min said the government was determined to ensure that citizens ‘are not cheated’ by the 20-billion-dollar project. The railroad would link a deep seaport in Rakhine State on the Bay of Bengal with Muse on the Chinese border, the Myanmar Times reported.
‘We are negotiating in detail with the Chinese side on all issues, including compensation for the land needed to construct the line,’ Aung Min said last week. ‘We are doing everything to protect our people so they are not cheated.’
Human rights groups have raised concerns about the rail link, noting that mega-projects in Myanmar have led to land expropriation, forced labour and other abuses in the past.
‘If the land is privately owned, we will evaluate the value with the local authorities and the Chinese company will pay that price to the owners,’ Aung Min said.
He said the government was negotiating s contract with state-owned China Railways Engineering Corporation. Construction could begin in December.
Aung Min is a member of the cabinet that started work on April 1, following the November 7 general election.
Construction of the Kyaukpyu-Muse railroad is expected to take five years to complete under a build, operate and transfer contract.
‘It will cost about 20 billion dollars,’ Aung Min said. ‘We might give China Railways Engineering Corporation the right to operate the line for 50 years.’
The single-track line would operate with electric trains capable of travelling at about 200 kilometres per hour, with a capacity for 4,000 tons of cargo plus passengers.
The railroad will follow the same route as oil and natural gas pipelines from the Bay of Bengal to the Myanmar-China border, which is being built by another state-owned Chinese company.
Both projects are designed to cut transportation costs for China.
‘With this railroad China can get access to the sea and transport their goods without having to pass through the Malacca Strait,’ Aung Min said.
The government is also considering a plan to build a railroad linking Dawei on the Bay of Martaban to Kanchanaburi in Thailand.
In November 2010, Ital-Thai Development Corp of Thailand signed an agreement to develop a deep seaport and special economic zone near Dawei.