Burma to Import 3,000 New Buses from Japan

By May Lay 17 July 2012

Burma’s crumbling public transport system is set for a major overhaul with 3,000 new buses to be imported from Japan this year under a joint initiative.

Around 70 Japanese engineers will also come to Burma along with the new buses, revealed Deputy Railways Minister Thant Shin. They will give training in the three main cities of Rangoon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw in order to maintain the vehicles.

“Japanese car companies only offered to import 300 buses but the MIC [Myanmar Investment Committee] allowed 3,000 buses to be imported because we need to improve our public transportation. We have used [old buses] for many years without any upgrade,” he told a meeting in Naypyidaw.

The city bus importing project will be run by the Oriental Transportation Company as a joint-venture between several Japanese auto-manufacturing firms, which will receive 60 percent of profits, and the Burmese Ministry of Transportation, which will receive 40 percent.

But not everyone is happy about the news with existing bus owners worried that importing thousands of new vehicles from Japan will adversely affect their livelihoods.

“I bought three mini-buses, Japanese-made used ones, worth thousands of kyat in 2006. They are my only business. I think importing new buses is a good way to improve living standards in Burma, but if they substitute all old buses with new ones then what will that do for my business?” asked Tun Lin, 55, who runs a transport firm in Tharketa Township. “Cars price will all suddenly drop after the old cars substitution policy.”

Dilapidated buses and patched-up cars have been running around Burma for decades. Most would be destroyed immediately in neighboring countries as they pose a serious safety risk while also being extremely unreliable and having poor fuel economy.

Highway buses from Japan will also be imported for use as intercity transportation in Burma. Automobile workshops and technical colleges will be opened by Oriental Transportation Company with Japanese experts teaching maintenance procedures, said a company spokesperson.

Although Burmese drivers generally prefer Japanese cars for their build-quality and reliability, local residents in Rangoon have raised concerns that the city’s colonial-era streets will be too narrow for modern big buses.

“I can’t imagine how these high standard Japan buses will run on the roads of Rangoon,” said 27-year-old civil engineering graduate Min Min Naing. “Most of the roads are not good and too narrow for running these big cars in Rangoon. They should consider reforming these roads before they decide on importing city buses from Japan.”