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Engineer defends Burma’s ‘highway of death’

On the 590-kilometer ‘Highway of Death’ that connects Rangoon and Mandalay to Burma’s new capital Naypyidaw, cars have been known to fly through the air and land on their backs as drivers approach the road’s sharp curves at high speeds.

Outside observers have argued the road lacks the most basic safety features. The surface is paved with a low-grade material known to puncture tyres, and fails to make use of modern engineering techniques that prevent vehicles from veering off course.

During a a recent interview with DVB reporters, Myo Myint, the highway’s chief engineer, admitted there is a long way to go before the highway lives up to its promise.

“Imagine an eight story apartment being built”, he said, comparing the road to a tower block.

“People are moving in when only the first two floors have been completed, as there is no other option. But the balconies are yet to be reinforced, and then someone walks out to the balcony and leans on it and falls off.”

Myo Myint said there was no good alternative to opening the road early, as there would otherwise be no way to reach the capital city by car.

He argued that most accidents are likely to be have been caused by reckless driving, pointing to a recent nighttime collision between two vehicles.

“I’m not saying the road is completely innocent,” he admitted.

“Sometimes the road can also be a factor in accidents.”