Burmese foreign minister visits India

Jan 3, 2008 (DVB), As Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win met senior Indian officials to discuss bilateral relations, activists feared that a joint transportation project could lead to human rights violations in Arakan state.

Nyan Win has been holding talks with prime minister Manmohan Singh and minister for external affairs Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi.

The prime minister welcomed the strong relations between India and Burma, according to an Indian official spokesperson, but called for "greater urgency in bringing about political reform and national reconciliation" in Burma and the inclusion of all parties in these efforts.

The officials also discussed trade and joint projects, including the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project.

Mukherjee was pleased to note that discussions on the project had recently concluded, and looked forward to the signing and implementation of the scheme.

India is investing a reported US$ 100 million in a project to allow ships from Mizoram state in northeast India to travel along the Kaladan river to the port of Sittwe, giving Indian traders access to the Bay of Bengal and onward shipping routes.

Research has already been carried out and measurements taken to restructure the banks of the Kaladan river and make the port suitable for docking Indian container ships.

However, some groups have expressed their concern that the project will have a detrimental effect on local people.

Arakan human rights monitor U Khin Aung Kyaw said that the people of Burma would not see any benefit from the projects.

"The shaping of Kaladan river will only benefit the Indian economy, and will cause several losses for local villagers in the area," he said.

"This will not bring about anything good for the Arakanese people or for Burma – only India will profit from it."

U Khin Aung Kyaw said the implementation of the project could also lead to human rights abuses.

"All the people living in villages alongside the river will be forced to relocate and their villages will be destroyed," he said.

"There are going to be force seizure of lands by the government. Locals will also be subjected into forced labour for development projects."

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min

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