September 30, 2023

Myanmar Junta Minister Discusses Train Lines to China

The Irrawaddy

Myanmar junta’s deputy prime minister Mya Tun Oo recently attended a transport forum in Beijing to discuss train links between southern China and Mandalay and Rakhine State, providing Chinese access to the Indian Ocean.

The Muse-Mandalay rail project is a major part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor and the wider Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to link global markets with China.

The US$9 billion, 431km project will connect with the Chinese rail network at the border town of Ruili in China’s Yunnan Province.

China is also developing a deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State, allowing Chinese trade to bypass the congested Strait of Malacca near Singapore and boosting development in landlocked Yunnan.

The Rakhine State port and railway to the Muse border in Shan State through Mandalay form key parts of Chinese economic strategy.

Critics say the railway will cause environmental damage and undermine Myanmar’s sovereignty.

Mya Tun Oo, who is also the regime’s transport minister, visited the headquarters of China Railway Group Co Ltd and discussed a feasibility study for Muse-Mandalay and Mandalay-Kyaukphyu rail sections.

Mya Tun Oo also met Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng and Chinese transport minister Li Xiaopeng to discuss transport cooperation, the acceleration of existing projects and future plans, according to the junta’s media.

At the Myanmar Economic Committee last month, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing hailed the potential trade benefits of a Kyaukphyu-Mandalay railway. He said the regime was also assessing the feasibility of a Muse-Mandalay railway and suggested building a Chinshwehaw-Lashio line in Shan State near the Chinese border.

Faced with growing international isolation, Min Aung Hlaing has tried to attract more Chinese investment to bolster his ailing regime.

At the Comprehensive Transport Investment Promotion Conference in Beijing on Tuesday, Mya Tun Oo said the regime actively participates in the BRI and Mekong-Lancang Cooperation projects to establish Myanmar as an economic corridor.

Nine junta ministers have visited China this month, reflecting the regime’s deepening ties with Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to celebrate the 10th anniversary of BRI next month in Beijing with Min Aung Hlaing an unlikely guest at the event, analysts say.

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