RANGOON — Rangoon Car owners who commit traffic violations are being left to foot the bill for damages incurred to their vehicles when impounded by city authorities.
There are 144 streets in Rangoon in which car parking is prohibited and rules apply on many of the city’s roads, including no double parking on Anawrahta Street, Maha Bandula Road and Bogyoke Aung San Road, according to traffic police officer Lt-Col Aung Ko Oo.
Vehicles found in violation of these rules are instantly clamped then towed to a government parking lot on Shin Saw Pu Street in Myaynigone Township. Owners are fined 25,000 kyats for the violation and charged another 50,000 kyats for the towing service.
City car owners told The Irrawaddy about bad experiences they have had with the traffic authorities.
Filmmaker U Thet Oo Maung said that his car was seized by authorities in Yankin Township and he was fined 75,000 kyats including the fee for the tow truck. Later he heard a cracking sound from his wheels and sent his car to be serviced where he discovered that the ball bearings were damaged.
“The size of the truck is too small, it should be big enough to carry the car without causing any damage,” he said.
He asserted that 50,000 kyats for a towing service is very expensive, especially compared to the size of the fine. He also noted that storing all vehicles in Myaynigone Township is a big inconvenience to car owners and that authorities should consider opening facilities in different townships.
Rangoon’s traffic authority has hired a towing service company and formed a team with traffic police, Yangon City Development Committee’s staffers and the towing operators that patrol downtown areas to catch drivers violating traffic rules. The aim is to alleviate the city’s traffic congestion.
Road users agree that people should be punished for violations, but that cars should be impounded by city authorities without incurring damage.
During Rangoon parliament’s Wednesday session, National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker, U Nay Phone Latt—also known as Nay Myo Kyaw—asked the mayor whether the regional government will adopt a new system of simply clamping the cars rather than towing them long distances.
U Nay Phone Latt was told by several car owners about their losses. He explained that the towing service company clamps the front wheel and loads half of the car on to the back of the truck.
The back wheels of some cars automatically lock when the engine is switched off. However, the authority towed the cars regardless, resulting in ball bearings being damaged and even breaking the car’s camshaft.
“Towing a car that is violating traffic rules is correct but [the city authority] has no right to destroy cars,” said U Nay Phone Latt. “And how will they take responsibility if the car was damaged?”
City mayor and Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) chairman Maung Maung Soe replied, “my car was also towed that way so I empathize with them.”
At the moment, however, some say that towing cars to the designated parking lot remains the most practical approach for Rangoon. U Nay Phone Latt’s suggestion of simply clamping vehicles and leaving them on the road would create worsening traffic conditions as owners do not always pay fines promptly, said the city’s mayor.
He also thanked U Nay Phone Latt for bringing the issue to attention and said he would discuss it in YCDC workshops.
MP Nay Phone Latt pointed out that if a new approach is not possible, at least the YCDC and towing service company should compensate the owner for car damages or the authorities should strictly supervise the towing process to ensure no damage is done.