On the Move

Thailand, Myanmar, and India? Road Trip!

People will soon be able to opt for a journey by road between India, Myanmar, and Thailand as this region’s portion of the greater Asian Highway No. 1 becomes closer to completion. Progress on this project was recently highlighted with the opening of the 25.6-km long Myawaddy–Thinggan Nyenaung–Kawkareik section, linking towns in eastern Myanmar and reducing a formerly three hour long trip to just 45 minutes.

By November, the rest of the highway is expected to open, going all the way to Moreh—a border town in the Manipur state of far Northeast India.

map of highway through Myanmar

The Myawaddy end of this newly opened section also continues to Thailand’s western border town of Mae Sot—considered the most important border for trade between the two countries. Further in Myanmar, the highway will run through Mandalay and north to Tamu, as this is another busy border town which links to Moreh. Once the entire route opens, there is talk operating a bus service between Manipur and Mandalay, and perhaps to more destinations.

Construction for this highway began in 2012 with the assistance of Thailand, and it forms part of the East–West economic corridor which serves much of the Greater Mekong Subregion of Southeast Asia. This corridor runs coast to coast—from Myanmar’s city of Mawlamyine on the Andaman Sea, through Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam—going as far as the port of Da Nang.

In addition to the highway, another “Friendship Bridge” will be constructed at the Myawaddy–Mae Sot border. As this is the crossing that sees the highest volume of traffic between the two countries, the bottleneck is severe here—sometimes resulting in large trucks waiting nearly half a day to cross. A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week for this new bridge and it is expected to open in 2017.

So it seems some real progress is being made to facilitate trade and travel in the region overall, assuming authorities will also crackdown on the local corruption that has caused ongoing snags at border checkpoints between Thailand and Myanmar.