A truck travels on the upgraded Momauk-Lweje
road. Pic: Aye Lei Tun
MERCHANTS in Bhamo in Kachin State said last month that border
trade with China has tripled in the region since the completion
of construction work on a road linking the nearby town of Momauk
with Lweje on the Chinese border.
The project to upgrade a 76-kilometre (47-mile) stretch of dirt
road between Momauk and Lweje into a 4.6-metre-wide (15-foot-wide)
gravel road was started in December 2005 by Chinese construction
experts and completed last December.
Local traders said an average of about 150 trips by motorbike
and 50 trips by lorry were made on the road every day in the first
few months following the completion of the project.
“The trip from Bhamo to Lweje used to take nearly 10 hours
but now we can get to the border in about three hours if weather
conditions are good,” said U Phe Tin, a merchant who lives
“Now commodities can be transported much faster, so most
Chinese traders prefer the new road to other border roads,”
He said transporting Chinese goods through Bhamo was less expensive
than bringing them by road from the border town of Muse in northern
“It is less expensive to import goods by road through Lweje
to Bhamo and then carry them down to Mandalay on the Ayeyarwady
River,” U Phe Tin said.
Border trader U Win Zaw said the flow of goods from China to
Bhamo has tripled since the road project was completed.
“We get foodstuffs, electronic devices and textiles imported
from China and we export seasonal fruits, beans, rice and onions
from Myanmar,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that the Momauk-Lweje road was more
popular for importing Chinese goods than exporting Myanmar products.
“About 75 percent of the products exported from Myanmar
to China still go through the Muse-Ruili checkpoint,” he
U Win Zaw said that even with the upgrade the road was still
difficult for lorries during the rainy season.
“When the weather is good we can use lorries but when
it is raining we rely on couriers carrying goods on motorbikes,”
One motorbike courier named U Sein Lawe said he can make at
least two trips a day on the upgraded road if the weather cooperates.
“I mostly carry foodstuffs from China and I take as much
as I can on each trip. I can make a profit of about K10,000 to
K20,000 on each trip. If the merchants pay the money in advance,
I can carry a lot more and make a profit of at least K40,000 per
trip,” he said.
He said the number of motorcycle couriers working on the Momauk-Lweje
road has doubled to more than 100 since the upgrade project was