China and Myanmar have decided to look into the feasibility of constructing a railroad from Muse near the Chinese border to Mandalay in central Myanmar, the South China Morning Post reported on October 24.
The decision comes four years after plans to build a high-speed railroad from the border to Kyaukpyu on the Bay of Bengal were shelved. A railroad is already under construction from Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, to Ruili, a Chinese town opposite Muse.
It is not clear whether that railroad and the one from Muse to Mandalay will link up, but the projects on both sides of the border are part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. This is also an important part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), linking Yunnan with commercial centers in Myanmar as well as the Kyaukpyu port, where a special economic zone is being built.
Pipelines for oil and gas have already been built from the coast near Kyaukpyu to Yunnan, crossing the border at Muse-Ruili. While the West is shunning Myanmar because of its treatment of the Muslim Rohingya community in Rakhine State, and even re-imposing limited sanctions on the regime, China appears to be taking advantage of the situation by pushing for BRI-related activities.
Thaung Tun, a minister and security adviser to the government, told the South China Morning Post that the proposed railway will “in all likelihood” be extended to Kyaukpyu and Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital but still its main commercial center.