Bus Barons Say New Laws Forcing Drivers Off Rangoon Roads

By Moe Myint 18 September 2015

RANGOON —Bus line owners claim that conductors and drivers in Rangoon are being forced out of work as a result of the Automobile Law enacted earlier in September.

The changes to the law have dramatically increased dangerous driving fines from 1500 kyats (US$1.15) to a minimum of 30,000 kyats ($23), with jail terms of up to seven years for the most serious offenses.

“Drivers and conductors can’t earn enough money because of the traffic problems,” said Ta Yoke Lay, who owns a fleet of 48 buses leased out to owners on a per diem basis. “The penalties are also heavy. Some of my drivers have suddenly stopped work and are looking to move to other jobs.”

Over 6000 buses are registered with the Rangoon Division Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicles, also known by its Burmese acronym Ma Hta Tha. Before the changes to the Automobile Law were introduced, around 4300 buses ran on Rangoon’s streets each day, a number that Ma Hta Tha chairman Hla Aung told local media had dropped to around 3800 in September.

The Myanmar Times reported on Thursday that drivers had walked off the job for two days earlier this week and threatened further strike action unless traffic fines were lowered.

The drop in bus numbers has led to a transport shortage across the city, affecting university students sitting exams this week. So Htet Oo, an executive committee member of the Dagon University Student Union, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that student groups were hiring minibuses to transport students for free between downtown locations and university campuses.

The Irrawaddy could not reach Rangoon Division Transport Minister Aung Khin for comment on Friday.

On Facebook, Union Information Minister Ye Htut said that if bus lines were unhappy with the fines, the government would replace lost services with military vehicles and would seek assistance from business leaders to provide transportation for commuters.