An interesting newsletter from JUMVEA (Japan Used Motor Vehicle Export Association). This industry is full of companies who will export ANYWHERE if there is a profit to be made. Large numbers going to Myanmar again through “grey” channels.
The number of used cars exported from Japan to Myanmar has seen a significant increase, according to statistics from industry associations. During the first half of 2023 (January to June), the number of exports from Japan to Myanmar increased by 53.3% compared to the same period the previous year, reaching 9,855 vehicles. When combined with those intended for Thailand, which is said to re-export most of them to Myanmar via land routes, the total export figure amounted to 38,124 vehicles, a 55.0% increase. This places Myanmar as the fourth-largest destination for these exports, following Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and New Zealand.
This information has been revealed based on data compiled by the Japan Used Motor Vehicle Exporters Association. Myanmar was the top destination for Japan’s used car exports for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015. However, in 2018, Myanmar authorities prohibited the import of right-hand drive used cars. Currently, there are no shipping routes directly connecting Japan and the major city of Yangon, and these vehicles are entering Myanmar through unofficial channels, often transiting through border towns like Mae Sot on the Thai side.
In Thailand, the import of used cars is generally prohibited to protect the domestic automotive industry. However, it is possible to land these cars in Thailand if they are intended for transportation to neighboring countries. If you examine Google satellite images near the Moei River in Mae Sot, you can see a significant number of vehicles parked. These cars have been transported by containers from Laem Chabang Port in Chonburi Province on the eastern coast of Thailand.
Satoshi Nakao, Chairman of the Automotive Distribution Market Research Institute in Tochigi Prefecture’s Oyama City, who is knowledgeable about Japan’s used car exports, explained to NNA that, “In the export customs documents from Japan, the destination is often altered for convenience, and there is no problem in writing Thailand or Myanmar, even if import is prohibited locally.” He mentioned that most of the exports listed under Thailand in the statistics are actually destined for Myanmar. There are some cases where vehicles are exported to neighboring countries like Laos and Cambodia, but this is a minority. In both of these neighboring countries, the import and operation of right-hand drive vehicles are generally not possible, so they need to be converted to left-hand drive in Thailand.
New car sales in Myanmar only amounted to a modest 1,380 units in the first half of the year. While the influx of over 30,000 used cars from Japan has a significant impact on the market, it’s important to note that the used cars being bought and sold in Yangon are not newly imported used vehicles. According to multiple industry insiders, many of the vehicles that are exported to Myanmar are subsequently resold within the country.
These cars are not officially registered in Myanmar. They are primarily distributed through special channels in minority-controlled areas or by military and government personnel. Some of them are intended for casinos located near the Thai-Chinese border. Since 2018, most of the exports from Japan to Myanmar have been handled by foreign dealers based in Japan.
According to Mr. Nakao, tens of thousands of used cars from Japan have been exported to Myanmar since 2010. There is a demand for “replacement” of aging vehicles in the local market. In Yangon, there is an illegal practice of transferring license plates from existing vehicles, which may be scrapped, to newly imported used cars.