RANGOON – In Thursday’s parliamentary session, 117 regional lawmakers approved the review proposal of Rangoon’s new public transit system, the Yangon Bus Service (YBS), after a heated debate by 26 legislators two days earlier.
Public frustration with a lack of legal action against bus drivers for reports of aggressive driving, assault of passengers, and general unreliability led to MPs receiving large numbers of letters from angry citizens, said U Kyaw Kyaw Tun of Hlaing Township, noting that there was no other avenue set up by the government through which such complaints could be addressed.
Lawmakers said they brought the proposal forward to ask government on how they would address YBS bus drivers’ misconduct, which has been described as a continuation of the problems with the old bus system, known as Ma Hta Tha.
Despite the debate session on the issue ending on Tuesday, the approval of the proposal was delayed, as several cabinet members, including Rangoon Division Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, were conspicuously absent from the session.
Members of parliament mocked the chief minister’s original slogan—“YBS for the public”—and began saying “YBS for public disappointment.”
On behalf of the Rangoon cabinet, the divisional minister for electricity, industry and transportation Daw Nilar Kyaw—who is also the chairwoman of the Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA)—explained the government’s plan for YBS.
“I don’t accept the terminology of MP U Kyaw Zeya,” she said, noting the slogan about public disappointment. “[It] has negative implications and determinations will be made by the public in time.”
MP from Insein Township U Wai Phyo Han stated a reminder that the legislature “has the right to guide government in the right direction if it is heading the wrong way,” and that arguments should not be regarded as “fighting against one’s own government.”
Daw Nilar Kyaw explained that the YRTA has handled over 6,500 cases of reported legal violations by drivers since the YBS system was installed in Rangoon. She said that the cases involved overcharging of passengers, physical assaults, aggressive driving, making undesignated stops, and incompletion of routes.
The YRTA has formed 10 mobile teams that regularly patrol the YBS bus gates to check whether the bus lines follow the rules and regulations of the YRTA. The government has already ordered that YBS buses be equipped with a GPS tracking system, and that CCTV be installed at more than 150 traffic lights.
Daw Ni Lar Kyaw said these operations are expected to begin in May. Officials will then monitor the buses from a traffic control center located in People’s Park.
The YRTA has prohibited drivers and bus attendants and conductors found guilty of violations of working in the public transportation system. There has also been talk of working with the Union government to revoke licenses when necessary, and cabinet members are drafting an all-inclusive transport law for the commercial capital.
The divisional government plans to give vocational training to both bus drivers as well as conductors. The YRTA is also looking to hire more female drivers within the YBS, but did not elaborate on the number of employees or the timeframe in which this might occur.
Minister Daw Nilar Kyaw did not say whether there would be a changeup among the YRTA’s 16 members, most of whom are government officials.
“It will be really hard to succeed [with the YBS project] unless the regional government replaces YRTA committee members with suitable experts,” said U Wai Phyo Han.