Calls for action after second Rakhine student boat sinks
AUTHORITIES in Rakhine State have announced they will take action against licensed boat owners who do not keep life jackets on board, following the sinking of a school ferry that claimed the life of four students in Rathedaung township.
The boat, which was carrying 17 students, sank on the morning of August 19 as it approached the riverbank. The bodies of the four schoolgirls who drowned were found three days after the accident.
Rakhine State Minister for Development U Min Aung said licences would be revoked for those boat owners who did not follow the order. He noted that this was the second such incident in recent months, with seven students having been killed under similar circumstances in June.
“We don’t want this kind [of incident to happen] again, and we want students to be able to go to school safely,” he said.
The Rathedaung Township Police Department said the ferry was overloaded, and was the only way for the students to get to school. U Zayar Hlaing of Rathedaung Township Special Branch said the student ferries from Kong Tanzay village to Yan Aung Pyin Basic Education High School are running again, albeit under supervision to ensure that they are not overloaded and that life jackets are onboard. In addition to overloading, U Zayar Hlaing said the high speed at which the small boats are driven can make the journeys more hazardous. Heavy rainfall and tidal surges can also play a contributing factor.
“The ferryboat driver turned himself in and he was charged under section 280 of the penal code,” said U Zayar Hlaing.
Arakan National Party state representative U Oo Than Naing (ANP; Rathedaung 1) criticised the government’s response on the matter, saying two such incidents in the space of less than two months was unacceptable.
“The government did not carry out proper implementation for student’s safety after the ferryboat sank the first time [in June],” he said.
He pointed out that many people in Rakhine State rely on boats for inland water travel, and it was the state’s obligation to ensure safe transportation for students.
The four girls drowned in the August 19 incident ranged in age from nine to 13. All were enrolled at school in Yan Aung Pyin village.