“It is said the bailey bridge is being installed on the landslide-hit section. The construction work is scheduled to be completed within three to four days. If the road is fixed during these days, it will mitigate the damage of the freight caused by road destruction. The blocked road poses obstacles for drivers and incurs additional costs of food and accommodation”, Ko Aung Aung Oo, a truck driver, elaborated on road conditions.
The landslides were triggered by torrential rains on the Myawady road section on 7 August. Landslides near Tawnaw waterfall on Myawady-Kawkareik section on Asian Highway cuts a main channel for the Myanmar-Thailand border trade.
The current landslide is about 100 feet long and blocks transportation, forcing the trucks stranded on the roadside.
Consequently, the flow of imported goods through Thailand’s Mae Sot-Myawady border channel came to an abrupt stop, weighing on import prices.
The repair works are underway. The authorities ensure smooth freight flow by shifting to other checkpoints and modes of transport.
Myanmar-Thailand bilateral border trade
Myanmar’s border trade with the neighbouring country Thailand amounted to US$2.127 billion in the past four months from April to July of the current financial year 2023-2024.
Myanmar conducts cross-border trade with Thailand via Tachilek, Myawady, Kawthoung, Myeik, Hteekhee and Mawtaung borders. Of them, the Hteekhee border performed the largest trade worth $1.389 billion in the past four months.
The trade values stood at $97.113 million at Myawady border post, $12.986 million at Tachilek, $7.189 million at Myeik, $2.491 million at Kawthoung and $0.088 million at Mawtaung.
The trade values stood at $603.67 million at Myawady border post, $63.295 million at Tachilek, $34.715 million at Myeik, $32.979 million at Kawthoung and $3.937 million at Mawtaung.
Current Myawady-Mae Sot highway condition
Another road option Htokawkoe-Nabu road section cannot be used due to earthen facilities. The road parts along Donekyi Mountain are unsafe with debris and water from the slopes of the mountain.
Some freight forwarders turn to old Dawna mountain hilly road. That road was constructed under the rule of the British and the scenic view on that road attracts tourists’ attractions. Upon the opening of the new Asian highway in late 2016, the Dawna mountain road was abandoned and after eight years, the commuters turned to that old road. However, that old road is unsafe for heavy trucks.
“Some move light cargo with the workers from one side to the other side as the road resumption period is still unconfirmed. If they shift to other roads, it will elevate freight shipping rates,” said Ma Wah Lwin, who sends consumer goods along Myawady-Hpa-an-Mawlamyine trips.
The road collapse on Asian Highway prompted small vehicles to move to other road parts which are not suitable for heavy vehicles. For road accessibility to the Myawady border market, a temporary bailey bridge is being constructed.
Ease of operation procedures for smooth border trade
Following the landslides caused by torrential rain on the Myawady road section, the export and import of licensed goods can be shifted to other border posts, according to the notification released by the Trade Department (Myawady Trade Zone). To ensure smooth trade, the exporters can move to some Myanmar-Thailand border posts after receiving export licences for the goods. If they want to change the mode of transportation to maritime transport, the authorities will give the green light to it as well. This move will also cover the importers engaged in Myanmar-Thailand border trade for the licensed goods.
“Ease of rules will facilitate freight flow for sure. However, the majority of our commodities are stored in Myawady. Therefore, it is hard to move to other border checkpoints as they are distributed through the commercial hub Yangon,” Saw Kabaw Htoo from Myawady Border Chamber of Commerce emphasized.
Commodity market outlook
Landslides on the Myawady section on Asian Highway wreaked havoc on onion export to Thailand as trucks are stuck on the roadside. Road destruction on the Asian Highway resulted in price hikes for some imported goods in the Yangon market.
The authorities concerned also issued an order regarding a price hike warning for food sent by other areas to Myawady.
The prices of rice, eggs and some vegetables are inflated presently.
“The market relying on Thailand imports is battered a lot, bracing for price hikes. Yet some consumer goods can be substituted with some products. Those restaurants and consumers using Thailand’s edible oil are adversely affected. However, there are still other options for edible oil. Nonetheless, it still brings negative impacts on them,” Daw Moe Moe Wah, an owner of Wah Wah Win Depot in Bayintnaung Commodity Centre in Mayangon Township, Yangon, shared her opinion.
The stocks of edible oil imported by Thailand via the Myawady trade route are decreasing, leading to the price rise of edible oil. There is speculation that traders engaged in both Yangon and Myawady markets are likely to raise the prices of the goods conveyed to border markets until the Asian Highway resumes.