Braving both the police and the thieves, motorcycle taxi drivers are thriving in the suburbs around Yangon city. Officially banned from the city streets by local ordinance, which restricts motorcycle use to government staff only, motorcycles are emerging as one answer to semi-permanent traffic congestion and the rising popularity of the outer suburbs.
While the Mingalardon Township Police Station compound is crammed with motorcycles seized from their owners for illegal use, others jostle for business at nearby Khayae Pin junction.
Though rarely seen in downtown Yangon, motorcycles flourish on the outskirts. In Hlaing Tharyar, Shwe Pyi Thar, Insein and Mingalardon townships in the north, and South Okkalapa, North Okkalapa, South Dagon, North Dagon, East Dagon and Dagon Seikkan in the east, they are used both as personal transportation and as a lucrative business resource, police say.
Second Lieutenant Lun Aung San of Insein Township Police said the main causes were traffic congestion and insufficient public transport. The outer townships cover a large area, and bus stops are few and far between.
Two-wheel taxi drivers gathered at a bus stop in Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone told The Myanmar Times that the potential profits outweighed the risk of arrest and confiscation of their machine.
“We have no guarantees,” said motorcycle taxi driver Ko Lwin Ko Oo. “We lose money when our bikes are seized, but other business opportunities are few. I used to ride a trishaw until I broke my arm in an accident. Then I bought a motorbike and I’ve been doing this business ever since.”
Even if a bike is seized, the owner can buy a new one the next day by borrowing K150,000. A driver can earn at least K3000 or K4000 a day, which is attractive to teenagers, and the service is handy for residents of wards where bus service ends at 7pm.
While dodging the police, motorcycle taxis are also at risk from thieves. Ma Thandar, who runs a handset shop in Shwe Pyi Thar township’s Htan Chauk Pin market, told The Myanmar Times that some people steal not just the bikes, but also riders’ wallets and purses, even in daylight.
A cycle taxi driver in Hlaing Tharyar township was killed last month when a decoy passenger lured him to a spot where two confederates robbed him. All three have now been arrested, police said.
Ko Kyaw Htet, a cycle cabbie from Hlaing Tharyar’s A Le village, said a friend in the know had tipped him off about police procedure. “They usually make arrests on Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays, so I don’t work on those days. As long as you’re careful, you’ll do OK,” he said.
Source: Myanmar Times