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Skyline of Kalay
Kalay is located in Myanmar
Location in Burma
Coordinates: 23°11′N 94°3′E / 23.183°N 94.050°E / 23.183; 94.050Coordinates: 23°11′N 94°3′E / 23.183°N 94.050°E / 23.183; 94.050
Country  Myanmar
Region  Sagaing Region
District Kale District
Township Kale Township
 • Total 2,337.74 km2 (902.61 sq mi)
Elevation 140 m (450 ft)
Population 400,000
Time zone MST (UTC+6.30)

Kalay, also known as Karlay, is a town in the Sagaing Division of Myanmar. It is located upstream from Mandalay and Monywa on the Myittha River, a tributary of the Chindwin River. The town is the district headquarters of the Kalay District.[1] It has gained importance with trans border movement enabled between Burma and India following the 165 kilometres (103 mi) Tamu–Kalayamyo road built by the Border Roads Organization of India.[2] Recently, Kalay was one of the fastest developing towns in Burma.

In July 2015, a monsoon rain triggered a natural disaster, and a state of emergency was declared in four regions of the country. The disaster caused a flash flood in Kalay and surrounding areas. Kalay was devastated by the disaster.


The earlier name of the town ‘Karlaymyo,’ renamed now as ‘Kalaymyo,’ means “a town surrounded by four satellite towns” in the Burmese language. "Kalaymyo" means "a child/kid town" in Burmese Language.[1]


According to tradition, Kalay was established as a town on a Sunday in the 5th of waning moon of Tabotwe month 328, as per the traditional Burmese calendar.[1]

A votive tablet was unearthed in Kalay in 1983, with a Mon language inscription referring to the "Aniruddha, the Great King".[3][4]

During the Second World War, Kalay was an important regrouping point for the British during their retreat from Burma in 1942 because of the relatively easier access to India along the Manipur River (the alternative was to march through malarial forests from Kalewa to Tamu).[5]

On September 19, 2007, 200 monks marched through the streets of Kalay as a part of the 2007 Burmese anti-government protests. Over the next few days, the monks were joined by thousands of people of the Chin ethnic group. On September 24, students marched from Kalay University with posters and protested, demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and two other political prisoners.[6]

Kalay has several notable prisons, to which people from all across the region are transported.[7]


Agricultural field in Kalaymyo

Geographically, the distinctive feature of the town is that the Tropic of Cancer passes through it. This point has been marked by the milepost 55/56 near KyanSitKone village. Set in terrain that has an average elevation of450 feet (140 m) above mean sea level, the town has a picturesque backdrop of the LayThar Hill in the east and the Chin Hill in the west.[1]

The city is drained by the Myitthar River that flows in a south–north direction, the Nayyinzayar River that flows in a north–south direction, and the MaNePuRã River (also called the NunKaThel River) from across the international border with India; the last-named river has its origin in Manipur state of the north-east India.[1]


A tropical monsoon climate dominates the town. Temperature variations are significant, with summer months from March to May recording 100–112 °F (38–44 °C) and the winter months in the range of 50–70 °F (10–21 °C). The average annual temperature is reported to be 79 °F (26 °C). The average annual rainfall is of the order of 67.77 inches (172.1 cm).[1]


A school in Kalay

The population of Kalay is estimated to be 400,000, comprising 35% Bamar, 55% Chin and 10% other nationalities and foreigners.[1] The valley town, with its tranquil atmosphere, is inhabited in equal numbers by the Chin community (95% Christians) and Bamars. The original settlers are Shans.[8]


The economy of Kalay is dependent upon agriculture but it is also an industrial town. Cars, jeeps, trucks, fire engines, trailers, three-wheeled motorcycles are manufactured in the Kalay Industrial Estate. The town is the hub of trading activity with India across the border.[1]

Kale Township is unable to meet its own food requirements, although it exports food to neighbouring towns and cities. It has 80,000 acres (32,000 ha) under paddy, 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) under peas, and 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) under cooking oil crops. The irrigation dam in RāZāJo village will provide water to grow more crops under irrigated conditions.[1]

Kale Township has teak, ironwood (Pterocarpus indicus), the large timber tree Shorea obtusa, Shorea robusta and many other species of tree.[1]


The religious composition of Kalay and the surrounding township is listed as 55 percent Buddhist (mainly Theravada Buddhists),40 percent Christian (mainly Baptist) and the remaining 5 percent follow other religious practices. The district has 116 Buddhist monasteries, 508 churches, a mosque, two Hindu temples, two Buddhist seminaries for nuns, five Buddhist nunneries and a joss house (Chinese communal temple).[1]

Social infrastructure

Students from Hakha, Chin State, Myanmar studying in a Kalay School

The basic social services of education (primary to high school level, and universities within close commutable distances from the town), health services (general hospital, military hospital and traditional medicines' hospital), modern telecommunication network (telephone, Internet, telecommunication satellite network etc.), Media network of news papers (simultaneous coverage of news with Yangon), TV and radio services are well established in the town. The town’s electricity needs are met from the MāNePu Hydroelectric Project, which also helps promote industries.[1]


The strategic road between India and Myanmar, built with assistance from the Government of India, is the 165 kilometres (103 mi) Tamu Kalay road. The Border Roads Organization, a parastatal organization of the Government of India, started construction of this road in 1997, which was opened by the Foreign Minister of India in 2001. This road has facilitated trans-border movement between India and Myanmar.[2] Apart from this road, the town is well connected by a network of roads with Kalay, Gangaw, Monywa, Yarje and Mandalay. The important road route during the rainy season is the Kalay-Gangaw-Monywa-Mandalay road and during winter it is the Kalay-Myoma-Yarje-Monywa-Mandalay Route.[1]

Rail services also operate between Kalay and Gangaw. This line passes through the Pountaung Pounyar Tunnel.[1]

Inland water transport is also available up to Kalaywa, which is 24 kilometres (15 mi)short of Kalay. On this route, Morlike, Homalin, Khunte, Mingin and Monywar are also accessible.[1]

There is an airport at Kalay, an extension of a British-built Second World War airstrip that was used to ferry troops and supplies into Burma during the British reconquest of Burma in 1945. The airport is located in the middle of the town. Myanmar National Airlines, Air Bagan, Air Mandalay and Air KBZ operate regular air services to and from Yangon, Mandalay and Kalaymyo.[1][5] The airport is at an elevation of 499 feet (152 m); it has a 79 metres (259 ft) wide and 1,677 metres (5,502 ft) long runway with blacktopped surface.[9][10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Kalaymyo (2009-2010)". Kalay Township. 2010-03-01. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  2. ^ a b Burma file a question of democracy. India Research Press. 2003. p. 131. ISBN 978-81-88353-12-5. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  3. ^ Takkasuilʻ myāʺ Samuiṅʻʺ Sutesana Ṭhāna (Rangoon, Burma) (1996). Traditions in current perspective: proceedings of the Conference on Myanmar and Southeast Asian Studies, 15–17 November 1995, Yangon. Universities Historical Research Centre. 
  4. ^ Panʻʺ Lha (Nuiṅʻ.), Tōkyō Gaikokugo Daigaku. Ajia Afurika Gengo Bunka Kenkyūjo (1991). Summary of a new historical perspective of Old Burma: a special lecture delivered to the Basic Burmese Summer Intensive Course at the Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies on August 30, 1991. Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. p. 18. 
  5. ^ a b Slim, William (1961). Defeat into Victory. New York: David McKay. LCCN 61017449. 
  6. ^ Alexander, Amy (2009). Burma: "we are like forgotten people" : the Chin people of Burma : unsafe in Burma, unprotected in India. Human Rights Watch. p. 46. ISBN 978-2-564-32426-6. 
  7. ^ Lintner, Bertil (2009). The resistance of the monks: Buddhism and activism in Burma. Human Rights Watch. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-56432-544-0. 
  8. ^ Reid, Robert; Michael Grosberg (2005). Myanmar (Burma). Lonely Planet. pp. 33, 256, 262. ISBN 978-1-74059-695-4. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  9. ^ Airport information for VYKL at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
  10. ^ Airport information for KMV at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective October 2006).
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