Myanmar shares borders with Bangladesh and India, and with the GMS countries of Lao PDR, Thailand and Yunnan PRC. With this positioning Myanmar could become a key land bridge between Southeast and South Asia. The economy of Myanmar is predominantly agricultural, with rice being the main crop as well as the staple food. The country is also rich in mineral resources, including precious stones, natural gas and oil. Most of the goods traveling out of Myanmar pass through the border with Thailand or along the Irrawaddy River.


Starting in the 1980s, isolation and economic sanctions placed on the country have deprived Myanmar of international investment and assistance. This has greatly affected the transport sector, which stagnated without international expertise, experience and investment. The situation limited capacities within the agencies tasked with managing and running the transport sector.

Roads are the main mode of transport in Myanmar, even though it has a low road density of about 2km of road per 1,000 people. Forty-eight per cent of Myanmar’s core network of roads (about 34,000km) is paved with an all-weather surface. In stark contrast, only 8 per cent of the non-core secondary and local road networks are paved – with much of that in very poor condition. In recent years, there has been increased investment in the transport sector. However, it has focused on major highways and new railways, while neglecting the funding required to operate and maintain the existing networks, in particular, lower-level road networks. The higher-level roads are underutilized and it is difficult to access regional towns and communities, while transport costs within the country remain high.

Based on recent reforms by the Government, and after the April 2012 by-elections, there has been increasing agreement, both nationally and internationally, that Myanmar is on the brink of political, economic and social change. An important aspect of improving the social and economic development of the country is the advancement of the transport sector in the facilitation of domestic connectivity between markets, and rural and urban areas.

Source: Asian Development Bank, Myanmar Transport Sector Assessment, Strategy, and Road Map, October 2012.

Myanmar trade demand and key transport routes

The key transport routes for trade in Myanmar are the main road and rail link between Mandalay and Yangon (AH1), which includes part of the Western Corridor feeding to and from Yangon Port. The road section between Meiktila and Mandalay, and the rail links between Thazi and Mandalay, are not on GMS corridors, but could be important nationally in trade terms. The next most important route for trade is likely to be the road connection with Thailand through the Myawaddy–Mae Sot border crossing. The Northern Corridor between Mandalay and the China PRC border at Muse is reasonably heavily trafficked. The northwestern part of the Western Corridor link beyond Meiktila, the Northern Corridor west of Mandalay and the North-South Corridor link through Tachileik and Mongla, are unlikely to handle large volumes of international trade traffic.

Source: Transport and Logistics in the Greater Mekong Subregion, Technical Assistance Consultant’s Report [Final Report] 2012 [Link to Resources]


CBTA in Myanmar

Myanmar fully ratified the main CBTA agreement in 2003, and has successfully ratified 17 Annexes and Protocols. The country is committed to ratifying the remaining four as quickly as possible. The Myanmar Government has also voiced its readiness to implement the CBTA at priority border crossings with Thailand (Myawadd)–Mae Sot) and PRC (Ruili–Muse).

In the future, dialogue and consultations for the Exchange of Road Traffic Rights between Myanmar and Thailand, and Myanmar and PRC should be underway. All three governments have voiced their interest in discussions and have requested ADB to help facilitate the negotiations and provide technical assistance.

With the agreement to extend the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) between Viet Nam, Lao PDR and Thailand to include GMS capitals and deep-sea ports, it is possible that the operational route of the EWEC might be expanded further to include Yangon and Thilawa Port once the necessary road infrastructure in the Myanmar sections of the EWEC are in place.


Myanmar Ministry of Rail Transportation:

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