Calls for ac­tion af­ter sec­ond Rakhine stu­dent boat sinks

The Myanmar Times - - News - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com

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.

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