Friday, September 22, 2017

Trishaw drivers quit en masse

About 300 trishaw drivers in Yangon gave up their career in March alone, Yangon’s mayor said during a debate in parliament last week on trishaw licensing.

U Hla Myint, who is also chairman of Yangon City Development Committee, said trishaws were diminishing in usefulness because Yangon residents preferred buses and motorcycles.

“A total of 360 bus routes are running every day in Yangon,” U Hla Myint said in the Yangon Region Hluttaw on April 8, during a discussion about the future of trishaws and the economic pressures faced by drivers under the current licensing system.

In the outskirt areas, motorbikes, which are faster than trishaws, are used. So we will grant licences for trishaws in very limited numbers.”

Earlier, U Kyaw, a representative for Thingangyun, had proposed increasing the number of licences for trishaw drivers. The proposal received support from only three representatives.

Yangon has 26,777 licensed trishaws, U Hla Myint said, but YCDC permits only 709 to operate in the six townships that make up Yangon’s downtown area.

Each township grants trishaw drivers a licence plate in a specific colour. Any driver caught operating a trishaw in a different township - or operating without a licence at all -faces stiff punishment. The mayor said 120 licences were granted during February as a way of creating job opportunities in urban areas.

But U Kyaw argued that the existing licensing system does not meet the needs of trishaw drivers in the city.

“For example, Thingangyun township has more than 5000 trishaws but only 968 have licences. The remaining 4000 trishaws are running without licences. If YCDC takes action on these 4000 trishaw drivers, they will be jobless. If a family of three depend on one trishaw driver for income, 12,000 people are going to face real poverty, and that is only in one township.”

U Thaung Sein, a representative from Dawbon, agreed that drivers are “working hard” to earn a livelihood and should be protected. “A trishaw costs between K700,000 and K1.5 million. The trishaw drivers cannot own this vehicle. They just hire from trishaw owners by paying daily charges.”

U Thaung Sein said traffic laws are unfair on trishaw drivers.

“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.”

Asked about why more trishaw licences are needed in Yangon, U Kyaw told The Myanmar Times on April 9: “I presented this proposal in parliament as I understand the lives of trishaw drivers. A licence is their very basic need. The public desires this.”

U Kyaw also argued that the mayor’s suggestion that motorcycles can replace trishaws in the city is untrue. “The mayor’s words are not relevant to the actual facts. Using motorbikes is not officially allowed in the Yangon area.”