Infrastructure lags in Myanmar as government faces pressure from all sides

Myanmar people are waiting for action on crucial issues, like infrastructure development and foreign investment.

Sabtu, 25 Nov 2017 10:42 WIB

Than Phyu Zayat- Phayar Thonsoo Road (Photo: Myitmakha Media Group)

Than Phyu Zayat- Phayar Thonsoo Road (Photo: Myitmakha Media Group)

In recent months, Aung San Suu Kyi has faced a barrage of international criticism, attacking her inaction as ethnic minority Rohingyas have been forced out of the country in a wave of deadly attacks.

Within the country, Aung San Suu Kyi has largely enjoyed high levels of support on this front.

But, some dissatisfaction is mounting as the government neglects other areas, like infrastructure development.

This report is from Myitmakha media group in Yangon, Myanmar.


In the south of Myanmar, a crooked road -half concrete, half dirt- weaves its way between mountains. 

The Than Phyu Zayat- Phayar Thonsoo road is lined with trees. There’s little security in the area. The road is famous for drug smuggling. 

Farmer U Kyaw Zin says traveling along the road is a risky business. Groups of armed insurgents regularly interrogate travelers and extort money.

“They ask questions like, ‘where are you going’ or ‘what are you going to do?’ They [armed insurgents] are always keeping their eyes on who will enter their territory.” Zin continued,  “ethnic people are a little safer, outsiders face the most questions.”

This is the land of the Mon and Karen ethnic groups. And like in many parts of Myanmar, armed insurgents have been fighting the national military for over 6 decades.

For Mon and Karen people, this road is a potential path out of poverty.

There are more than 20 villages along the road, and over five hundred thousand people living in the area, most of them farmers.

For now, produce, mostly rice, is sold at local markets. But a good road could connect them with international markets via Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.

Local trader, U Naing Aung says that depends on developing the road: Paving it, and making it safe to travel along.

“If the road is smooth and easy to use, tourism will improve. For trading, it will only take about 10 hours to drive from Bangkok to Than Phyu Zayat,” he said. “Drugs and other illegal trades will also decrease.”

The poor state of the road has left local people with fewer economic opportunities, and it has impacted their health and education.

Children often don’t make it to school because the road is too unreliable. 

Those who need health care can’t access doctors or medicine. 

Daw Naw Say Mu lives in the town of Than Phyu Zayat with her two children.

“When children go to school, they take that road. If there is a medical emergency, we count on that road.” Say Mu went on, “but the road is bad, it’s hard to use. It becomes even worse in the rainy season.” 

Myanmar’s infrastructure development lags way behind that of neighbouring countries. Schools, hospitals and roads are shabby, basic, and few, especially in remote areas. 

The Myanmar government says they hope to develop the road, but don’t have the money to do it. 

“An organization from Thailand has offered to pave the road but it is still under negotiation with the government,” stated U Thaung Han Soe, from the Ministry of Construction.

Thailand would benefit from new trading opportunities, and is keen to strengthen its relationship with neighbouring Myanmar. 

However they are still waiting for the Myanmar Parliament to amend its foreign investment laws to clear the way for an investment like this.

When Daw Aung San Su Kyi, came to power in Myanmar, many people, like farmer U Kyaw Zin, hoped that she would bring new solutions to old problems. 

“We hoped that the condition of the road would improve with the new government lead by Daw Aung San Su Kyi, but there are no changes so far,” he complained.

Aung San Su Kyi’s government is now overwhelmed by the national peace process – attempting to balance the role of the military, the fate of ethnic minority groups, international criticism, and public opinion. 

In the meantime, Myanmar people are still waiting for action on other crucial issues, like infrastructure development and foreign investment.

 

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