The construction of a bridge across the Kaladan River in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township has been stopped temporarily due to attacks in the area carried out by the Arakan Army (AA), according to government officials.
AA forces reportedly ambushed a cargo ship carrying 300 tons of steel intended to be used for the bridge, while the ship was traveling from Sittwe, Rakhine State, to Paletwa on March 16. Chin State government spokesperson and municipal minister U Soe Htet told Khonumthung that this contributed to the decision to halt construction.
“The steel frames were set on fire. We bought these frames from Japan. We are preparing to check the capacity of these steel frames with Japanese experts,” he said. “If these frames can be used again, we will use them after they’ve been fixed. Currently, we have stopped construction of the bridge.”
The Chin State government has also stopped transporting other construction materials to Paletwa.
Locals in southern Chin State told Khonumthung that the fighting between the AA and the Burma Army has caused suffering in the region.
Peter Lwe Luu, editor of local news group Khumi Media, said that the proposed Kaladan River bridge is “essential” in linking Paletwa and Matupi townships, and is disappointed that the project is now delayed.
“I feel so upset that they destroyed materials for this important bridge,” he said, referring to the AA. “If they want to fight the Tatmadaw, they should target the Tatmadaw,” he added, referring to the Burma Army.
Meanwhile, the Tatmadaw has been accused of targeting civilians in its pursuit of the AA in northern Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township, where The Irrawaddy reported on March 22 that the military had opened fire on villagers, killing five people.
A bridge construction unit under the Union Ministry of Construction began building the bridge in question across the Kaladan River in late 2016.
According to the Chin State government, some 27 million kyat (US$17,750) was allocated for the project, which is more than 50 percent complete.
It is part of the India-backed Kaladan Multimodal Project, in which nearly $500 million is being invested.
The state administration had also planned to open the bridge on Chin National Day—held annually on February 20—in 2020.