Road-Weary Paletwa Residents Protest for District Status
By Moe Myint 21 March 2016
RANGOON — About 200 Paletwa Township residents staged a protest on Monday, calling for an administrative upgrading of their town in Chin State to district status, said township authority Maung Maung Soe.
The sanctioned protest began at 10am on Monday and was led by the chairman of the Khumi National Party (KNP), Tun Kyaw, who could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Paletwa resident Aike Nyi Htwe participated in the protest and said if Paletwa were upgraded to district status, people wouldn’t have to travel as many miles to report to government offices or district-level judiciary cases, as is currently the case.
“When we have to do something on the district level, we must go through Arakan State and Mandalay to reach Matupi,” he said, referring to another township that currently serves as the district-level administrative seat for Paletwa. “If they designate our town [district status], we won’t need to travel anymore.”
Paletwa residents travel by bus to Matupi, their capital Hakha and other cities in the state, undertaking journeys that can sometimes take more than 48 hours to reach their destination due to a lack of well-connected roads between townships.
Though Matupi lies less than 45 miles northeast of Paletwa, mountainous terrain and a more direct road passable only by motorbike in the dry months require the circuitous route that sees travelers pass through Arakan State, and Magwe and Mandalay divisions, before re-entering Chin State from the east.
For the last five years, Paletwa lawmaker Pike Lin has submitted a proposal to Parliament to earn his township district status, but because of the town’s weak infrastructure, the more developed Matupi Township was favored instead, in a vote in the Chin State legislature, said Maung Maung Soe.
He said construction on a 100-mile highway between Paletwa and Matupi Township began last year but was never finished, rendering parts of it impassible during the raining season. He added that construction might finish in 2016.
Paletwa is in southwestern Chin State, near Burma’s border with Bangladesh. Locals want to develop their border as a trade zone, similar to Myawaddy in Karen State, on the Thai border.
Maung Maung Soe said if the Indian government were to help in the construction of a highway linking Paletwa with the Indian border, the region could develop quickly.