Five Charged Over Chindwin Ferry Accident

By Tin Htet Paing 1 November 2016

Five crew members including the captain of an overcrowded ferry that capsized on the Chindwin River in Sagaing Division last month killing some 70 passengers were charged under Burma’s criminal code.

Money was also given by the Union government to the families of each victim, according to the regional government. Rescuers have recovered 73 bodies from the incident and seven people are still missing.

There were a total of 159 survivors, including four ferrymen, according to S Willy Frient, Director of Sagaing Division’s Relief and Resettlement Department.

He said that the welfare payment of 1.7 million kyats (about US$1,300)—excluding government life insurance payments—had been given to 70 of the victims’ families by Oct. 23.

Authorities were unable to confirm the exact number of passengers on board at the time of the tragedy but some survivors estimated that it was carrying about 250 passengers.

The ferry was registered with Sagaing Division’s Department of Marine Administration as having a seating capacity of 36 people.

The captain of the privately owned Aung Soe Moe Kyaw-2 ferry had been on the run since the capsize of the ferry in mid-October but turned himself in to local police on Friday, according to U Tin Maung Myint, police major of the Kani Township police station.

Police have now arrested five individuals involved in the ferry accident. Among them is U Myint Kyaw who owns a stake in the ferry operator and was one of four detainees to be arrested following the accident, police major U Tin Maung Myint said.

He added that another shareholder, U Htay Zaw, is currently on the run.

The five crew-members are charged under Articles 280, 304(A), and 114 of Burma’s Penal Code.

According to Article 280, 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 can be imprisoned for a maximum of six months. Article 304(A) imposes seven to ten years in prison “for causing death by negligence.”

“The additional Article 114 is for abetting the act of negligence,” the police major told The Irrawaddy. “The case is now under police investigation before we bring it to court,” he said.

Sagaing Division’s minister of electricity, industry and transportation U Than Nyunt Win said that based on the detailed report of a separate investigation team formed by the regional government, they would take further action regarding ferry regulations.

“There are already laws and regulations set by the regional government,” he said. “Such an incident happened because [ferry operators] do not respect these regulations.”

U Than Nyunt Win also added that the regional government asked local transport authorities to start assigning inspectors at each jetty along the Chindwin River in order to make sure ferries are not overloaded or overcrowded.

The Aung Soe Moe Kyaw-2 ferry also breached the local transport authorities’ restriction of navigating the Chindwin River at night.

Confessing that regional legislation on private ferry operators is “flawed,” Sagaing Chief Minister U Myint Naing said his regional government would take “effective” legal action against ferry operators who violate restrictions set by regional government when he visited the location of the ferry salvage operations in Kani Township’s Michaung Dwin village.

Similar incidents have occurred on Arakan State’s rivers with police noting that deaths were often a result of an insufficient or total lack of life jackets provided for passengers on board.