RANGOON — Police have brought criminal charges against the helmsman of an overcrowded ferry that capsized on the Chindwin River in Sagaing Division over the weekend.
“Negligence” and “rash navigation” were cited as causing several deaths, according to police authorities in Kani Township, where the incident occurred near Michaung Dwin village early on Saturday morning.
The ferry was reportedly carrying 300 passengers. As of Tuesday afternoon, rescuers had discovered 40 bodies—12 men and 28 women—but the death toll is expected to climb as several people remain missing.
A total of 159 survivors, including four ferrymen, have been identified, according to S Willy Frient, Director of the Sagaing Division’s Relief and Resettlement Department. No hospitalizations have been reported so far.
Police major U Tin Maung Myint of the Kani Township police station, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the 40-year-old helmsman, Ko Zaw Myo Win, is being charged under Articles 280 and 304(A) of Burma’s Penal Code.
There is a warrant for his arrest, but it is not clear whether he is on the run, or among the passengers still missing, the police major added.
According to Article 280 of the penal code, anyone “who navigates any vessel in a manner so rash or negligent” as to endanger human life or to cause hurt or injury to others could be imprisoned for a maximum of six months. Article 304(A) imposes seven to ten years in prison “for causing death by negligence.”
When asked about the ferry owner, officials said no case had yet been filed.
“He will be investigated and charged if he is found guilty of the accident,” the police major told The Irrawaddy.
According to U Tin Tun Aung, head of the Sagaing Division’s Department of Marine Administration, the privately owned Aung Soe Moe Kyaw-2 ferry was registered as having a seating capacity of only 36 passengers..
The ferry left Homalin for Monywa on Friday evening. Navigating during the nighttime is, however, not allowed.
“The Department of Marine Administration restricts ferries from navigating in the Chindwin River during the nighttime as it’s dangerous,” U Tin Tun Aung told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
At the time of reporting, the emergency rescue team was trying to salvage the sunken ferry.
Correction: This article has been modified from an earlier version that incorrectly designated the Department of Marine Administration as the Inland Water Transport Department