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Asian highway in Karen state, Myanmar

Militarization, evictions and livelihood loss mark the development of the Asian Highway in Karen state. Civil society groups closely monitor the road construction and advocate for reparation of damages caused.


Supporters of the Asian Highway in Karen state have pushed for a rapid construction of the road, despite being located in a politically sensitive conflict zone. The project aims to complete the missing link between the Asian Highway 1 and the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) and is developed in two parts. The first part connects Thin Gan Nyi and Kawkareik town. It was financed by Thailand’s Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) and opened to the public in August 2015. The second part, connecting Kawkareik with Eindu town, is currently under construction and financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). While the road project improves connectivity across Karen state and fosters trade between Myanmar and Thailand, the construction has also caused large concerns over human rights abuses and tensions over territorial control, as a report by civil society groups KESAN, KHRG and THWEE has documented [1]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Asian highway in Karen state, Myanmar
State or province:Karen state
Location of conflict:Road between Thin Gan Nyi town, Kawkareik town, Eindu town
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Trade, transport, mobility
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

The road construction is part of the larger Asian Highway network project that aims to develop road infrastructure across Asia, to increase connectivity and trade among the regions [7]. The road project described in this entry aims to complete the link between the Asian Highway 1 (AH1) and the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC). It is developed in two parts.

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Project area:NA
Level of Investment:>100,000,000 + 32,000,000 USD (see project details)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:17 + 114 households
Start of the conflict:11/01/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Seesaeng Kanyotha Company Ltd. from Thailand - constructor
China Road and Bridge Engineering Co., Ltd. (CRBC) from China
Relevant government actors:Myanmar Ministry of Construction
Myanmar’s Border Guard Forces
Thailand Department of Highways
International and Finance InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) from Thailand - finance
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:KESAN, Karen Environmental and Social Action Network,
KHRG Karen Human Rights Group,
THWEE Community Development Network
KPSN Karen Peace and Support Network
The Border Consortium
International Senior Lawyers
and others
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Karen indigenous
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Refusal of compensation
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Noise pollution, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsRising tensions over territorial control between armed groups
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Forced compensation (people being forced to accept despite their unsatisfaction)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Damages remain. Concerns over further expansion and related impacts remain.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

National Land Use Policy (NLUP) 2016
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] THWEE, KESAN and KHRG, 2016. Beautiful Words, Ugly Actions. The Asian Highway in Karen State, Myanmar. Thwee Community Development Network; Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN). (accessed online 05.03.2018).
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[2] KPSN 2015. Asian Highway statement: Asian Highway project undermines peace in Karen State. Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN). (accessed online, 10.03.2018)
[click to view]

[3] Karennews online article (17 July 2015). KPSN: ASIA HIGHWAY FIGHTING DAMAGES PEACE. (accessed online, 10.03.2018).
[click to view]

[4] Radio Free Asia (RFA) online news (16 July 2015). Karen Rebels Plan Attack of Myanmar Military For Highway Opening Ceremony. (accessed online 11.03.2018)
[click to view]

[5] The Irrawaddy online news (26 January 2016). DKBA Splinter Group, Govt Army and Allied BGF Clash in Karen State. (accessed online 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

[7] Wikipedia on the Asian Highway Network (accessed 12.03.2018).
[click to view]

[8] Karennews online article (18 February 2014). VILLAGERS AFFECTED BY ASIAN HIGHWAY TO BE PAID. (accessed online, 12.03.2018)
[click to view]

[6] KHRG News Bulletin, March 22, 2015. The Asia Highway: Planned Eindu to Kawkareik Town road construction threatens villagers’ livelihoods. KHRG #15-5-NB1. Karen Human Rights Group. (accessed online, 12.03.2018)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

VOA News Video: Trouble on the new Asian Highway in Myanmar
[click to view]

Other documents

Militarization and armed conflict along the Asian Highway in Karen state Source:
[click to view]

Map of Asian Highway in Karen state Source: [1],
[click to view]

Asian Highway 1 (AH1) Route Source: wikipedia,
[click to view]

Satellite view Source: Google maps
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EJatlas Southeast Asia Team ("at"
Last update20/03/2018
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