Bureaucratic Gridlock Blamed for Ferry Disaster
The supervisory authority for ferry operations in Myanmar, called Ya Sa Ka, said Tuesday that it bore only partial responsibility for the sinking of the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2, which went down on the Chindwin River October 15.
The accident claimed the lives of over 70 people, many of them teachers and students.
Survivors have accused Ya Sa Ka of having prior knowledge that the ferry was operating in an overloaded condition, and of allowing it to carry on with its operations regardless.
In addition, local ferry operators told Myanmar Times that the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 had been allowed to operate without a proper permit for its route.
"Frequent complaints were made to the previous government about this but no one took action against them," said a leader from a local vessel association.
A Ya Sa Ka official acknowledged that his organization could have done better, but suggested that it lacked the power to intervene.
"We accept that some Ya Sa Ka members are responsible for the accident but people should consider what authority we acutally have," he told Myanmar Times. "We are only allowed to take action against vessels which are overloaded through the Inland Water Transport department or the regional government . . . In some cases it takes a very long time to get an answer so we have no choice but to let overloaded ferries go."
He added that it was standard for ferries on the Chindwin River to operate in an overloaded condition.
Regional minister for transport U Than Nyunt Win promised last week that regulatory authorities would be scrutinized as part of the investigation into the sinking, and that his ministry would take action against any entity found responsible.