Monday, August 21, 2017

Ban on non-Yangon cars angers taxi drivers

Taxi drivers hoping to work in Yangon with cars registered elsewhere are being threatened with steep fines. They also say they were duped into buying the cars as they were never informed they could not be used in Yangon.

A taxi driver washes a car registered in Ayeyarwady Region in downtown Yangon last week. (Aung Htay Hlaing/The Myanmar Times)A taxi driver washes a car registered in Ayeyarwady Region in downtown Yangon last week. (Aung Htay Hlaing/The Myanmar Times)

City police say under current rules cars registered in other states and regions are not permitted to do business in Yangon. Rarely enforced until recently, the rule was recently reaffirmed by the Yangon Region Supervisory Committee for Traffic Rules Enforcement, which published a public notice in state newspapers on February 14.

Most taxi owners affected by the rule say they bought their vehicles from Yangon car sales centres without knowing they could not use them in the city. Cars from other regions are about K1.5 million cheaper than Yangon-registered vehicles but the taxi owners said they were told by showrooms that they would face no problems driving in Yangon.

“When I bought the car, I didn’t know it could only be used as a taxi in other states and regions. The government said nothing about this before. What should I do? We bought the cars with a legal licence,” said taxi driver U Kyi Win, who bought a Toyota Probox registered outside Yangon for K9.7 million.

He said there are rumours that businesspeople are pushing the government to enforce the rule so they can buy the cars back at a discount, and that many of the cars that ended up in the hands of taxi drivers were actually given to region and state government ministers, who later resold them through sale centres.

Drivers who bought cars say the law is pointless and should be changed.

“Nobody would buy a car with a regional licence if they knew it could not be used in Yangon. We’re prepared to pay a reasonable tax, but we want to use our vehicles,” said another taxi driver, U Than Aye, who bought a Suzuki Wagon R+ registered in Ayeyarwady Region for K7 million.

But traffic police said they plan to enforce the rule, enacted in 1964, despite the complaints.

“Vehicles registered with the Road Transport Administration Department can be driven legally throughout the country whether the number plate is red or black. But under local by-laws, they cannot register with Yangon City Development Committee to operate the vehicle as a taxi,” said Police Lieutenant Win Lwin from No 2 Deputy Traffic Police Force, Yangon.

The rule was put in place, he said, because Yangon authorities do not earn revenue from cars registered outside Yangon Region. They are also concerned about cars registered elsewhere “flooding” the city and exacerbating its traffic woes.

A captain from the traffic police force said a crackdown was conducted from February 1 to 20 and of the 3525 vehicles checked, 704, or 20 percent, were registered in another state or region. Offenders can be fined up to K500,000, a YCDC official said.

According to statistics as of January, of the 531,985 vehicles in the country, 351,985 are in Yangon Region. Of the 157,265 commercial vehicles in the country, 109,560 are in Yangon Region.

When contacted last week, Road Transport Administration Department officials could not say whether it was possible to change the place of registration to Yangon. Four car showrooms contacted by The Myanmar Times also declined to comment.