Ya Ka Sa re­sponds to crit­i­cism af­ter ferry dis­as­ter

The Myanmar Times - - News - MAUNG ZAW maungzaw@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Win Thaw Tar

MEM­BERS of Ya Sa Ka, the coun­try’s pri­vate ves­sel su­per­vi­sory com­mit­tee, have re­sponded to al­le­ga­tions of neg­li­gence in the wake of the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry sink­ing, say­ing they had made com­plaints about over­loaded ves­sels in the past but that their author­ity is con­strained.

In the af­ter­math of the deadly ac­ci­dent, which so far has claimed more than 70 lives, a sur­vivor al­leged that Ya Sa Ka – the su­per­vi­sory body’s Myan­mar-lan­guage acro­nym – was in­formed that the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 was over­loaded when it ar­rived at the Phaung Pyin board­ing gate. Re­port­edly, de­spite pleas to act, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the su­per­vi­sory author­ity said the ves­sel’s pas­sen­ger load was not their con­cern.

Since the Oc­to­ber 15 dis­as­ter, there has been wide­spread crit­i­cism and con­dem­na­tion of Ya Sa Ka across so­cial me­dia, with calls made for se­ri­ous ac­tion to be taken against re­spon­si­ble of­fi­cials. Ya Sa Ka rep­re­sen­ta­tives only this week of­fered com­ment on the sink­ing.

“Ya Sa Ka mem­bers have been strongly crit­i­cised fol­low­ing the sink­ing of the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw ferry but we are only al­lowed to take ac­tion against ves­sels which are over­loaded through the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port depart­ment or the re­gional gov­ern­ment ... We ac­cept that some Ya Sa Ka mem­bers are re­spon­si­ble for the ac­ci­dent but peo­ple should con­sider what author­ity we ac­tu­ally have,” said one of­fi­cial from Ya Sa Ka in Ho­ma­lin.

In 2012, the Sa­gaing Re­gion gov­ern­ment en­acted the Sys­tem­atic Run­ning of Pri­vate Ves­sels Law. Ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion, Ya Sa Ka was formed un­der the author­ity of the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port depart­ment and was charged with the in­spec­tion of ves­sels at water­way gates along the Chind­win River.

Un­der the law, many po­ten­tial ac­tions of Ya Sa Ka re­quire ap­proval from the re­gional gov­ern­ment via the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port depart­ment.

“I ac­cept that there are some peo­ple within Ya Sa Ka who may be re­spon­si­ble for the ac­ci­dent but we are un­able to act if we do not have the proper author­ity. In or­der to take ac­tion against an over­loaded ves­sel, we need to ask per­mis­sion from higher-level of­fi­cials and wait for the re­sponse. In some cases it takes a very long time to get an an­swer so we have no choice but to let over­loaded fer­ries go,” said an­other Ya Sa Ka of­fi­cial from Kalaywa.

“Al­most all ves­sels on the Chind­win River are over­loaded. Wide­spread re­form across all re­spon­si­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions is needed if this is to change,” he added.

Mem­bers of Ya Sa Ka told The Myan­mar Times that they had lodged nu­mer­ous com­plaints with the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port depart­ment in the past about ves­sel op­er­a­tors vi­o­lat­ing the law on the Chind­win River, to lit­tle avail.

“We com­plained many times about the ves­sels vi­o­lat­ing the law to the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties but no ef­fec­tive ac­tion was taken so we stopped com­plain­ing,” said U Thaung Nyunt, head of Ya Sa Ka in Monywa.

Sa­gaing Re­gion Chief Min­is­ter U Myint Naing told sur­vivors of the dis­as­ter that if need be, Ya Sa Ka would be com­pletely abol­ished or re­formed.

Re­gional Min­is­ter for Elec­tric­ity, In­dus­try and Trans­port U Than Nyunt Win has said Ya Nya Na, the Myan­mar­lan­guage acro­nym for the Depart­ment of Marine Ad­min­is­tra­tion, also shares some blame for the ac­ci­dent.

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.

More than 200 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 at least 73 dead and seven peo­ple still miss­ing.

The re­gional gov­ern­ment has pre­vi­ously stated that all those with a share of cul­pa­bil­ity for the dis­as­ter, in­clud­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials, would be called to ac­count.

Photo: AFP

Res­cue per­son­nel from the Myan­mar Fire Ser­vices Depart­ment re­float a ferry which sank in the Chind­win River on Oc­to­ber 19.

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