Almost 500 trishaw drivers have been arrested and fined over the past six months, as authorities claim Yangon’s increasingly congested streets offer less and less room for alternative forms of transport.
Drivers have handed over more than K5.7 million in fines since April 1 for a range of misdemeanors including riding in certain townships outside of permitted hours, carrying too many people and illegal parking.
Local authority Yangon City Development Committee claims its strict enforcement of the rules is to prevent trishaws – also known as side-cars – from blocking the busy and narrow streets downtown.
Six townships – Pazungdaung, Botahtaung, Kyauktada, Pabedan, Latha and Lanmadaw – are off limits to trishaw drivers between 6am and 6pm.
However, drivers frequently breach this rule, carrying passengers on Thein Phyu Road, Merchant Road and Bogyoke Aung San Road at all hours of the day, said U Zin Min Hlaing, deputy officer from YCDC’s management department.
In the hope of clearing the streets, YCDC will continue to arrest and fine lawbreakers, he said. The township authority is also on the case of unlicenced drivers and those carrying goods without a licence, or carrying more than two passengers.
“If we find a trishaw driver without a licence, we will seize the vehicle,” he said. Lawless drivers can be charged between K10,000 and K500,000 and face up to a year’s imprisonment.
Drivers say the strict rules are bad for business and that YCDC’s claim to be fighting congestion is not acceptable.
“I’m not satisfied with this reason. How can they blame us for the traffic on Sule Pagoda Road [a major thoroughfare] when there are no trishaws in the area,” said Ko Htun Thura, a driver from 50th Street in Pazangdaung township. Yangon’s 35,000 trishaw drivers either have to reject prospective passengers wanting to travel to streets deemed off-limits, or risk being arrested, he said, adding, “We have to think about earning a living.”
Fines usually range from K10,000 to K15,000, he said. “We are only given our trishaws back a couple of days after they arrest us, so we are riding carefully to avoid that.”
Ko Soe Moe, a trishaw driver from East Dagon’s No 15 ward, said, “If we enter a no-trishaw zone, we get arrested. We have to keep a lookout for YCDC staff while driving through forbidden areas, in order to take our passengers to the places they want to reach. I can’t remember how many times my trishaw has been confiscated, and I’m really worried about my living, as I have heard that seized trishaws may be destroyed.”
YCDC data shows a total of 483 drivers were fined between April 1 and September 30 – 34 in Yangon’s Eastern District, 152 in the Western District, 140 in the Southern District and 157 in the Northern District.
The dispute over the role of trishaws in the city centre has been going on for years. Yangon’s Mayor U Hla Myint, who also chairs YCDC, told parliament during a debate several years ago that trishaws were becoming less useful, because residents prefer buses and motorcycles.
During the same debate, U Thaung Sein, a representative from Dawbon township said traffic laws are unfair on trishaw drivers and unduly beneficial to YCDC.
“When trishaw drivers break traffic rules, YCDC fines them K20,000 and takes the trishaw. And YCDC profits by renting the trishaw back to the driver. This is not in line with the democratic government’s aim of reducing poverty,” he said.
Source: Myanmar Times