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Railway re-routed around heritage site

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Two incumbent ministers and national legislators-elect ordered the railways ministry last Thursday to choose a new path for the line it is building near the ancient city of Mrauk-U, after residents complained that walls and pagodas had sustained damage after a section of track had been laid.

ancient-pagoda-arakan2The order also came three days after Transport Minister Thein Swe and Industry Minister 1 Aung Thaung, of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, had met lawmakers-elect of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, which won more state seats than the USDP in national polls on November 7. 

The politicians visited Mrauk-U to redraw the route and Burma’s Archaeology Department under the Ministry of Culture informed the Rail Transport Ministry to follow the new route, which passes through the ancient city’s north.

“The new route will cross the Rangoon-Sittwe Road but it’s a long way from the ancient pagodas and buildings, so the new route is acceptable,” an archaeologist in Mrauk-U said on condition of anonymity.

On November 15, local residents filed a complaint at the office of the Burmese Army Western Command chief Brigadier General Soe Thein, seeking a redesign of the Sittwe-Ann-Minbu railway project after 10 sections of wall, including those named Thazintan, Mungalar Manaung, Khrunkite, Kathel Ai Moat, and three pagodas, were found to have been damaged during the construction of the Kyauktaw-Mrauk-U section, which finished on national election day, residents said.

ancient-pagoda-arakan1“After the residents filed the complaint, the Ministry of Culture immediately informed the Ministry of Rail Transport … [which] then … had to postpone the project. The damage was repaired and the route was redrawn,” the archaeologist said.

The Archaeology Department issued a ban last Thursday on railway workers digging in exclusion zones around the city or damaging the ancient forts. It also warned that cultural heritage thieves would be punished, he said.

The Sittwe-Yechanbyin section and Kungaung-Yoetayoke section of the Sittwe-Ann-Minbu railway has been commissioned into service since May last year and 75 per cents of Kyauktaw-Mrauk-U section was complete, a Sittwe rail official said.

Observers and party members have speculated as to the motivation behind Aung Thaung and Thein Swe seeking the meeting with three lawmakers from the RNDP on November 22 in Sittwe, capital of Arakan (Rakhine) State. In the elections, the RNDP secured the largest number of seats, 18, in the 46- to 47-seat Arakan Assembly.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 December 2010 01:07 )  

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