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The Burmese government has awarded Russia a tender to develop the country’s first underground rail service in its remote capital, reports on Russian media suggest.
Details about the proposed project for Naypyidaw are vague. The Voice of Russia media group carried a short report on 13 July quoting the “project’s chief architect” as saying that experts were conducting geological surveys “and designing the first line”, expected to be 50 kilometres long.
The plan appears ambitious given the woeful state of Burma’s existing transport services, with much of the country inaccessible and roads in the economic hub of Rangoon in a state of decay.
But the core of Naypyidaw, where the capital was moved to in 2006, remains a veritable beacon of development: the vast majority of civil servants also relocated when Rangoon was abandoned as the administrative centre, and the city is fed with round-the-clock electricity, despite much of the country being starved of power.
Documents leaked to DVB several years ago suggested the government had plans for a metro in Naypyidaw that appeared to be part of its larger military bunker project exposed by DVB in the investigative documentary, Burma’s Nuclear Ambitions.
The plotted metro line ran close to a vast underground command centre on the outskirts of Naypyidaw, which witnesses said was being built to house thousands of personnel.
Experts consulted at the time said however that the government would need outside help for the rail line, with North Korea mentioned as a possible benefactor giving that top Burmese officials toured Pyongyang’s metro system during a secret visit there in November 2008.
The following month the same delegation, led by Shwe Mann, the current parliamentary speaker, inspected Beijing’s metro, a visit that was documented in the official post-trip write-up obtained by DVB.
Russia is yet to embark on any major infrastructural projects in Burma, where bids for such developments are often quickly snapped up by China, but has sought to develop closer ties with Burma as it looks to boost its security presence in the Asia-Pacific
Relations are already strong on a number of fronts, however, with young Burmese army personnel regularly sent for technological training in Moscow.