Sagaing Chief Minister Pledges to Enforce Ferry Safety Laws

By Tin Htet Paing 19 October 2016

RANGOON — Sagaing Division’s chief minister has pledged to take “effective” legal action against ferry operators who violate restrictions set by regional government, in the wake of the tragedy of the overcrowded ferry that capsized on the Chindwin River on Saturday.

Regional chief minister U Myint Naing visited the location of the rescue operations in Kani Township’s Michaung Dwin village on Wednesday and told reporters that the regional government would plan a proper policy to tackle such violations, given that similar accidents have happened in the past.

He also confessed that regional legislation on the issue is “flawed” and assured that it would “be amended.”

U Myint Naing added that the regional government would hold a press conference concerning the incident on Friday, detailing updates on the situation based on reports and investigations.

“Once the sunken ferry is salvaged and we get precise reports, we will proceed with legal procedures as soon as possible,” he said.

The privately owned Aung Soe Moe Kyaw-2 ferry was reportedly carrying 300 passengers. As of Wednesday, the rescue team had recovered 48 bodies, but the death toll is expected to climb as several people remain missing.

According to the Sagaing Division’s Department of Marine Administration, the ferry was registered as having a seating capacity of only 36 passengers.

The vessel left Homalin for Monywa on Friday evening. However, the Marine Administration Department restricts ferries from navigating after dark. Police have since brought charges against the helmsman of the ferry.

Lower House lawmaker U Tun Tun Naing of Kani Township told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that he would raise questions to the government about its plan to undertake and enforce regulations on privately owned ferries.

There were also two recent fatal boating accidents in Arakan State, killing four schoolgirls in Rathedaung Township and six women in Taungup Township. According to police investigations, the deaths were a result of an insufficient or total lack of life jackets provided for passengers on board.

On March 13, 2015, the government-owned Aung Ta Kon (3) ship, running between Sittwe and Kyaukphyu in Arakan State, sank in Myebon Township, reportedly killing at least 160 people, but with only 72 bodies recovered. The boat was reportedly overloaded with various goods. The Arakan State government has since suspended the route after facing criticism for being unable to enforce regulations.