The Irrawaddy

Generals Prep $15M of New Fencing For Border With Bangladesh

NAYPYITAW — The Upper House of Parliament on Thursday heard the Home Affairs Ministry’s 20 billion kyats ($15 million) plan to raise several more kilometers of fencing along Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh and carry out other related work.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Major General Aung Soe told the Upper House session that the money would come from the president’s emergency fund and be handed over to the Ministry of Defense to carry out the work in Rakhine State. He asked the session to make a record of the project, which it did.

With the president’s approval, the fund can be appropriated without approval from Parliament.

Fencing was built along 204 km of Myanmar’s 295-km border with Bangladesh in three phases between 2009 and 2015.

“In phase four, an 11.5-mile [18.5-km] fence was put up along the border during the 2016-17 fiscal year. Another 3.2-mile Y-shaped fence topped with barbed wire coils is being built during the 2017-18 fiscal year. Fencing will have been put up along 14.7 miles of border when that work is completed,” Maj-Gen Aung Soe said.

The 20 billion kyats from the president’s emergency fund will be used to build a Y-shaped fences topped with barbed wire coils along an additional 18.5 km this fiscal year along with other related infrastructure including a 12.2-meter-wide patrol route along the fence, 161 reinforced concrete conduits and eight buildings including three warehouses.

“The old fences are not strong enough and people can cross over them or remove them. However, we don’t yet know about [the quality of] the new fences. We want better fences so that people from the other side cannot enter illegally. If the fence cannot prevent people on the other side of the border from entering illegally, it will be a waste of money to build a fence. It is the responsibility of the ministries to spend the funding effectively,” said lawmaker U Pe Than, of Rakhine State’s Myebon Township.

U Pe Than, a central executive committee member of the Arakan National Party, said the project would be adequately funded but stressed that the ministries had to spend the money effectively because the fence was key to preventing illegal immigration and the threat from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

The Upper House also made a record of another 1 billion kyats from the president’s emergency fund that the Border Affairs Ministry will use to upgrade two gravel roads connecting Ngakhuya to Zetipyin and the Kyikanpyin junction to the Kyaukpyinseik camp in Rakhine State’s Hla Phoe Khaung Village. The two roads are a combined 18.5 km in length.

Border Affairs Deputy Minister Major General Than Htut told the session that the road upgrades would contribute not only to the border area’s security but also to transportation, health, social affairs and the education of local people.

The Implementation Committee for Recommendations of the Rakhine State Advisory Commission led by Kofi Annan had instructed authorities to upgrade the roads.

Defense Deputy Minister Major General Myint New said his ministry would also spend 5 billion kyats from the emergency fund on renovating 882 buildings belonging to the military’s Western Command that were damaged by Cyclone Mora.

“The damage caused by the natural disaster was inspected by proper teams and 882 out of 1,009 buildings hit by the cyclone will be repaired in the first phase during the 2017-18 fiscal year,” he said.

“The president’s emergency fund was known as the reserve fund in the past,” explained U Khin Cho of the Lower House Public Accounts Committee. “If the president approves, the fund can be spent without seeking the approval of Parliament. However, it is necessary to inform Parliament of the spending.”

Translated from Burmese by Myint Win Thein.