Shan rights groups in Burma launched a campaign against the new Mong Nai-Kengtung railway on 17 August, denouncing it as an expansion of the Burmese regime’s war apparatus in Shan state.
In recent months, the regime has accelerated construction of the planned 361-km railway, the first rail link across the Salween River to eastern Shan State. The Shan Women’s Action Network (Swan) and Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) have documented how thousands of acres of farmlands have been confiscated along the route. Farmers complaining have been told the railroad is an “army project” and have been threatened with prison.
The railway cuts strategically between the northern and southern territories of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the biggest ceasefire group, which has resisted pressure by the regime to become a Border Guard Force. The new line will enable rapid deployment of heavy artillery into this remote mountainous region in the event of an offensive against the UWSA or other ethnic resistance forces.
“This is not a passenger railway, it’s for the army’s tanks and howitzers,” said Ying
Harn Fah of Swan.
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The railway will also pass through the Mong Kok coalfields, opposite Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, where the regime and Thai investors are planning to excavate millions of tons of lignite and build a power plant to sell electricity to Thailand.
“The regime is telling the world that their 2010 elections will bring change to Burma, but on the ground they are digging in for war,” said SHRF researcher Puen Kham. “Burma’s neighbours should think twice about investing in these war zones.”
Swan and SHRF are demanding an immediate halt to construction of the railway.
Shan Women’s Action Network
Shan Human Rights Foundation