Monday, May 25, 2009

Junta wants Thai company to build strategic road

S.H.A.N. -The Burma Army has insisted again that Saraburi, a subsidiary of Ital-Thai, construct a 150 km road through the rebel-active territory despite the existence of a shorter 100 km route inside Burma in exchange for a coal concession, according to sources that attended a public hearing in Chiangrai’s Mae Fa Luang district on Thursday, 21 May.

The company official told the meeting of some 200 villagers in Ban Hintaek, formerly the stronghold of the late Mong Tai Army (MTA) leader Khun Sa, that the firm had pointed out that with improvement on the existing road inside Burma, the coal trucks would be able to reach the heavy duty highway in Maesai, opposite Burma’s Tachilek.

In contrast, the proposed road through the area operated by the anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) “South” will be 60 km inside Burma but at least 90 km inside Thailand until it connects with the national highway at Pasang.

The Manager Online, 23 January, quoted Somchai Rungsakhorn, Mae Fa Luang district chief, as saying that the area on the Thai side was part of the National Park.

The firm official, whose first name was Samphan, also stated that the SSA’s Kengtung Force, commanded by Lt-Col Gawnzeun, whose main base Loi Gawwan, located east of the proposed road, has yet to be approached on the matter. “That’s the trouble,” commented a villager. “Who’s going to be responsible for our safety if the rebels are unhappy about the road project?”

The Burma Army has since 1997 made several forlorn attempts to seize the base. The attack in 2001 by junta troops from positions well inside Thai soil had ignited a brief confrontation between the two countries.

Maejok on the Burmese side of the border is also long known as a transit point for drugs. An SSA column on 8 February 2002, had seized and destroyed some 500,000 speed pills there, an incident covered by Thai TV Channel 7 that won a prize.

The deposit in Mongkok, Monghsat township, boasts at least 150 million tons of raw coal, one third of it Grade A. With 200 ten wheelers working each day to transport them, it would take 40 years to deplete the coal fields there, according to Saraburi official.

SHAN made its first report on the project on 27 January.

According to a border security officer, the construction may not be coming too soon. “Even with the consent of the local populace, it will take months for the project to go off, because many government departments are involved, including forestry and the National Security Council (NSC),” he said.

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