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Arakan State celebrates 40 years

The 40th anniversary of Arakan State Day was celebrated in Rangoon and Arakan State on Monday, as well as among Arakanese communities around the world.

In a message to the people of Arakan [Rakhine] to mark the celebration, Burma’s President Thein Sein called for stability in the western Burmese state and urged the regional government to ensure the “all-round development of the region”.

Arakan is the country’s least developed region after Chin State.

“In addition, steps are being taken to develop the region’s electricity grid in a bid to light every part of Rakhine State,” he said. “Transport facilities such as highways, internal roads and railroads are being extended to ensure better links with other states and regions.”

Arakan was connected to the national power grid for the first time earlier this year. As a result, the main cities and several towns in the region now have access to 24-hour electricity at fixed national prices.

Arakanese were previously obliged to pay 500 kyat (US$0.50) per unit to private companies for electrical power which, for the most part, was limited to three or four hours a day. Now connected to the grid, Arakanese households now qualify for power at 35 kyat per unit, and 75 kyat per unit for business premises.

Despite the progress, regional MPs pointed out that Arakan State has fallen far behind in infrastructure development over several decades, and that it will take time for progress to become apparent.

Kyaw Than Hlaing, a Central Executive Committee member of the Rakhine National Party, said 2014 has been a special year for Arakan State as it marks the beginning of an era when people can live with the benefit of electricity.

The Arakan State Day festivities in Sittwe were attended by union ministers Soe Thane, Tin Naing Thein and Khin Yi. A similar event in Kyauktaw included poem recitals and essay writing contests, as well as sports activities.