No one off-limits in investigation of ferry sinking: Sagaing minister
NEITHER regulatory authorities nor public officials will be spared as the government prepares to take action against anyone whose conduct is found to have contributed to the deadly Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry sinking, which claimed the lives of at least 73 people on October 15.
Speaking at a press conference in Monywa on October 22, Sagaing Region’s Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transportation U Than Nyunt Win said all those with a share of culpability for the disaster would called to account.
Survivors and witnesses to the fatal sinking have alleged that personnel from Inland Water Transport and the Ministry of Transport may be in some way responsible for the accident.
Speaking over the weekend, U Than Nyunt Win seemed to agree, stating that he believed regulatory authorities along the ferry’s route may not have conducted careful inspections before the accident.
“Government departments are being investigated for negligence, so we are certainly taking action against all responsible organisations, from top to bottom,” he said.
The Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 was travelling between Homalin and Monywa townships when it is thought to have capsized after striking a rock in the Chindwin River near Mee Chaung Dwing village, in Kani township.
Nearly 300 people were estimated to have been onboard, well above the 36 passengers the vessel was licensed to carry. A total of 159 were rescued, with 73 dead and seven people still missing.
Of public authorities’ responsibility for the sinking, survivor Ko Soe Min Thet said, “The Inland Water Transport department is supposed to check a vessel’s licence, its captain’s licence and whether it is overloaded or not. It is their duty. Many people
‘Everybody knows that the ferry ran without a licence despite the fact that people complained about it.’
U Soe Win Monywa resident
lost their lives in this tragic accident, so we want strong action to be taken.”
Monywa resident U Soe Win, who attended the press conference, laid blame at the feet of regulators who allowed the vessel to operate with seeming impunity for years, given that it was not correctly licensed.
“Why was the ferry allowed to run on the Chindwin River without a proper licence? Are there instances of bribe-taking that we don’t know about? Everybody knows that the ferry ran without a licence despite the fact that people complained about it. Why didn’t any department take action?” he asked.
U Than Nyunt Win confirmed that the ferry did not have the appropriate licence to carry as many passengers as it did, nor to operate the route it did.
Despite the speculation surrounding who is to blame for the disaster, regional advocate general U Khin Maung Hla said no action would be taken until a full investigation into the accident was completed.
“We can’t yet say who is responsible for this accident because we are still investigating in accordance with the law,” he said.
Four of the vessel’s crew members have been arrested and will face legal action, however, according to local authorities. The ferry’s owner and its captain on the day of the accident remain at large.