A government Minister has pledged that those displaced by a planned high speed rail line running the length of the country to China will receive full compensation.
Railways Minister, Aung Min told the Myanmar Times that; “We are negotiating in detail with the Chinese side on all issues, including compensation for the land needed to construct the line.”
The 800 kilometre line will run along side the Shwe Gas pipeline from Kyauk Phyu in western Arakan state to the China border crossing in Shan state’s Muse.
Rights groups have highlighted a lack of compensation as a serious concern with large scale infrastructure projects, such as the Shwe gas pipeline and the Myitsone dam, both of which are Chinese lead.
Perhaps more significant for the government however is serious anti Chinese feeling in the country, with the scale of investments and influence causing resentment.
“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 told the Myanmar Times, adding that; “We are doing everything to protect our people so they are not cheated.”
A report into the adjacent pipeline by rights group Earth Rights International (ERI) suggested that compensation was inadequate and subject to corrupt practices on the ground, causing serious problems for subsistence communities, who rely on the land.
With land ownership often tenuous or ill defined critics claim that many poorer agriculturalists lose out in such instances.
The line will reportedly be Burma’s first high speed rail line and will take approximately 5 years to complete.
Aung Min stated it would cost the Chinese state owned rail company some US $20 billion. As with many large scale projects the line would be constructed on a build operate transfer (BOT) system where by the line would be paid for in full by the Chinese, giving them exclusive use and ownership for a designated time;
“We might give China Railways Engineering Corporation the right to operate the line for 50 years,” Aung Min told the Myanmar Times.
It was earlier reported that work on the line could start as early as December, adding to China’s high speed network, already the largest in the world.
The Burma line would form part of a strategic network that China is allegedly pursuing as part of a ‘south-south corridor‘ that looks not only to improve connectivity and cut costs for industry but also to open up its western states.