RANGOON – During Rangoon’s parliamentary session on Friday, the minister of electricity, industry and transportation said the divisional government plans to increase the punishment given to bus line owners and drivers for aggressive driving, accidents and physical assault.
The plan is in response to a question submitted by National League for Democracy lawmaker U Nyi Nyi regarding whether the government planned to revoke bus line business licenses as punishment for abuses committed by drivers.
In U Nyi Nyi’s South Dagon constituency, many drivers of antiquated, locally made buses, known as BM buses, are known for their unsafe driving. They have reportedly breached traffic laws, failed to run designated bus routes and collected more money than the standard fare, said the lawmaker.
In a PowerPoint presentation he shared in Parliament, U Nyi Nyi highlighted an incident on Thursday in which a driver, his bus assistant, and four passengers beat a cab driver in Thingangyun Township. He also showed a photo from a BM bus accident on Friday morning in which an elderly woman flew through the windshield and died when the bus proceeded to run over her with its front wheels.
“The passengers are praying the whole time whenever they take these [BM] buses,” said U Nyi Nyi.
Electricity, industry and transportation minister Daw Nilar Kyaw said during the ongoing process of establishing a public bus service company in Rangoon, the ministry seeks to reduce unnecessary risks to ordinary citizens who rely on public transportation in their daily lives.
Daw Nilar Kyaw said although the Rangoon divisional government takes action against bus owners and drivers who breach the 138 traffic rules and regulations, the penalties are ineffective, which is why the government plans to increase the punishment.
Recently, concerned departments have collaborated to analyze accidents on the road. If they find a bus driver involved in a fatal accident, they shut down the bus for six months and ban the company from running any vehicles for five days.
“The punishment for violators is light,” said Daw Nilar Kyaw.
“Prior to launching the public bus service company we will strictly and effectively supervise BM bus lines,” she added.
A cab driver who asked to remain anonymous told The Irrawaddy that bus drivers never take responsibility for accidents and run from the scene to avoid arrest. Later, they apply to work at different bus lines, without proper licenses or official documents from the Rangoon Division Motor Vehicles Supervisory Committee—known by the Burmese language acronym Ma Hta Tha.
“We avoid fighting with bus drivers because we fear the consequences, like court hearings and speaking with the authorities,” the cab driver added.
According to minister Daw Nilar Kyaw, there are four BM bus groups that operate 146 vehicles, and 16 other bus groups that operate 401 buses daily in South Dagon Township.
In late May, it was announced that bus lines in Rangoon Division would be reduced from 357 to 50 but this has not happened yet. Under Ma Hta Tha supervision, between 4500 and 4800 city buses run 357 bus lines across Rangoon Division.