MUSE, Myanmar -- The winding road from Lashio to Muse, the main trade route from northeast Myanmar into China, was rendered almost impassable for two days in mid-January when a truck dropped its cargo of iron bars. Traders sat with armed police on top of the hazy hills drinking whisky and playing music on their mobile phones as they gazed down at hundreds of stranded lorries below.
The two-lane road is dangerous -- 22-wheeler trucks skid along hairpin turns through clouds of dust. With no streetlights, vehicles often come off the road, occasionally over the edge of the sheer mountain path. An overturned truck or spilled cargo can block this critical trade route for hours or even days.