There are two major railway lines in Shan State, the largest of Burma's administrative regions. The first starts at Mandalay, crossing into Shan State after Pyin Oo Lwin and going to the railhead at Lashio. A second starts at Thazi, and passes through Kalaw to go to Shwe Nyaung near Inle Lake before continuing north to the railhead at Yaksauk. Shwe Nyaung was once connected to Taunggyi by a rail line, now long since abandoned. There is another line, isolated from the rest of the network, which runs from Taunggyi to Kakku, then on to Namsang and Mong Nai. The line is only usable as far as Htiyi. A line from Mong Nai to Kengtung, known as the Shan State Railway, was announced with much fanfare in 2009 but construction was abandoned soon after it started. This paper will discuss the need for the immediate rebuilding of the line from Shwe Nyaung to Taunggyi, and in the longer term a line linking Taunggyi to Kengtung. The new National League for Democracy government could create much political goodwill for itself by rebuilding the line from Shwe Nyaung to Taunggyi (about 21 miles); by improving the road from Taunggyi to Kengtung (a distance of 281 miles); by re-opening the line from Taunggyi to Mong Nai; and in the longer term building a railway of quality from Taunggyi to Kengtung. This paper draws on fieldwork conducted in Shan State in 2013, 2016 and 2017.


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pp. 299-364
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