Farmers displaced by Bago railway to be compensated, line still suspended
FARMERS whose land was confiscated to build a railway to nowhere are to be compensated, parliament has heard. Bago Region’s Pyay-Paukkhaung railway, closed “temporarily” in 2013 after running for only three years, will remain closed for now because it had been operating at a substantial loss, said Transport Minister U Kyaw Myo.
The minister was responding on September 16 to a question from Pyithu Hluttaw MP Daw Ni Ni Tun (NLD; Paukkhaung), who asked about the future of the railway and the plight of the farmers whose land was taken to build it. They had received no compensation and Paukkhaung Station was falling into disuse.
“The railway is suspended only temporarily at the present time. If local residents need it, it can be used again when there are passengers and goods,” said U Kyaw Myo, adding that compensation would be paid to the farmers. He said the previous government had suspended the line because it failed to meet passengers’ expectations and ran
‘If local residents need it, it can be used again when there are passengers and goods.’
Transport minister at a loss.
The minister said the compensation would be paid from the next budget, but gave no figure.
More than 136 acres (55 hectares) of fields belonging to 235 farmers in seven villages in the township were confiscated to build the line.
The Paukkhaung railway is not the only line losing money. The current government shut down 16 lines during its first 100 days for that reason and transferred the funding to other expenditures, U Tun Lwin Oo, director general for the Ministry of Transportat and Communications, told a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw on August 16.
Myanmar railway transportation losses rose from K12.5 billion (US$10.3 million) in 2006-07 to K65.4 billion in 2014-15, as the ratio between expenses and income worsened by K205.85 billion, former deputy railways minister U Myint Thein reported to parliament last December.
The current government is continuing its predecessor’s efforts to privatise struggling state-owned enterprises. But railway transportation is unlikely to be sold off because entrepreneurs are thought to see little profit in taking it over, given the kind of investment that would be required.
Foreign experts have suggested that the government should retain responsibility for rail transport for the benefit of low-income travellers and remote communities.
– Translation by San Layy
U Kyaw Myo