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
NameAsian highway in Karen state, Myanmar
ProvinceKaren state
SiteRoad 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 CommoditiesLand
Trade, transport, mobility
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe 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.

From Thin Gan Nyi Naung to Kawkareik:

The 28km long AH1 section from Thin Gan Nyi Naung to Kawkareik is financed by NEDA. The contract covered an investment of 1,140,343,350 Thai baht (32,581,239 USD) and was awarded on January 11th, 2012. The new highway cuts through the Dawna Mountain range and was opened to the public in August 2015 [1].

The government announced compensation rates at 1.5 million Kyat (1,270 USD) per acre of lost land. According to the KESAN, KHRG and THWEE report, this covers only the costs of rebuilding a bamboo shelter, but not the purchase of new land. People were furthermore coerced to accept compensations. If they wouldn’t accept, they were told, the money would be used for other things while they would receive nothing at all [1].

In absence of grievance mechanisms, people complained to the Karen National Union (KNU). The KNU negotiated and additional 0.5 million Kyat of compensation, which was however still below the needs of the villagers [1, see also 8].

From Kawkareik to Eindu:

The section from Kawkareik to Eindu and the widening of the adjacent Right of Way is financed by ADB through a 100 million USD loan. Project implementation is carried out by the Ministry of Construction and the China Road and Bridge Co. Ltd. [1].

Villages affected in this stretch [6]: 1) Mya Pyi village; 2) Eindu village; 3) Lu Nya village; 4) Ka Nay Du village; 5) Kawk Ka Da village; 6) Thayar Gone village; 7) Weh Kayin village; 8) Durein village; 9) Kyakalay village; 10) Ma Neh K’Kyeh village; 11) Kyonedoe Town; 12) Nwa Cha Kone village; 13) Nya Taing village; 14) Yay Pu village; 15) Lay Taing village; 16) Kone Taing village; 17) Tada Kyo village; and 18) Hlaing Wa village .
Project Area (in hectares)NA
Level of Investment (in USD)>100,000,000 + 32,000,000 USD (see project details)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population17 + 114 households
Start Date11/01/2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesSeesaeng Kanyotha Company Ltd. from Thailand - constructor
China Road and Bridge Engineering Co., Ltd. (CRBC) from China
Relevant government actorsMyanmar Ministry of Construction

Myanmar’s Border Guard Forces

Thailand Department of Highways
International and Financial InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) from Thailand - finance
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersKESAN, 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
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Karen indigenous
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Refusal of compensation
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-economic 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
OtherRising tensions over territorial control between armed groups
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Forced compensation (people being forced to accept despite their unsatisfaction)
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Damages remain. Concerns over further expansion and related impacts remain.
Sources and Materials

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


[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]


[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]

Media Links

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
ContributorEJatlas Southeast Asia Team ("at"
Last update20/03/2018