Saturday, 25 December 2010

More Land in Arakan State Confiscated for Railway

By KHIN OO THAR Thursday, December 23, 2010

More residents in Burma's western Arakan (Rakhine) State suffer as their farm land and plantations have been confiscated or damaged due to a railway project in the area, according to local sources.

“Apart from receiving no compensation, we weren't even informed that our lands were confiscated. Some rubber plantations located along the railway were also destroyed,” a resident in the construction area told The Irrawaddy. He said about two acres of his land were confiscated and part of his rubber plantation was destroyed.

Local residents said that the authorities had confiscated more than 1,000 acres of land between Mrauk U and Kyauk Taw townships, which are on the projected Sittwe-Ann-Minbu railway line.

Last month, several ancient temples and cultural heritage sites in Mrauk U Township were damaged or destroyed because they were located on the planned railway route, according to local residents.

“By building this railway, the military regime is launching a psychological offensive against local people, rather than developing our area. It has destroyed what the locals value one by one, and it does as it wants,” said a Mrauk U resident.

He said the construction of the railway on ancient cultural land in Mrauk U began on Nov. 7. Authorities later altered sections of the route because of repeated objections from local residents.

The route is now affecting land around the Arakan State's most ancient city of Dannyawaddy, he said.

A resident of Kyauk Taw told The Irrawaddy that a dispute broke out recently between the army and Myanma Railway officials after an earth excavator that was used in the railway construction work between Kyauk Taw and Mrauk U damaged underground cables connecting local army posts.

“A battalion commander ordered them to stop the construction work immediately after their property was damaged,” he said.

The order came from the commander of Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 377 on Dec. 17. LIBs 377, 378 and 540 are based in the area, he said.

According to residents of Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, the regime has been working on the railway line in Arakan State since 2009. Several sections have been completed, they said, but some completed sections, especially in the Sittwe area, frequently need to be repaired.

The Sittwe-Ann-Minbu railway is scheduled to be part of the regime's nationwide railway network.

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