After disaster, captain turns himself in to police
The captain of the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry, which killed at least 73 people when it sank last month, gave himself over to authorities yesterday, and faces murder charges.
THE captain of the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry, which sank earlier this month in a disaster that led to dozens of deaths, has handed himself in to police, according to the Sagaing Region station.
“[The ferry’s captain] came to the police station and was arrested on October 28. The vessel sank in the Yin Mar Pin district [of Kani township] so we have transferred him to the police station there,” said a police official who declined to be named as he lacked authority to speak to the media.
On October 15, the massively overloaded Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry capsized on its journey between Homalin and Monywa after it is thought to have hit a rock.
Approximately 230 people were on board at the time of the accident, though the ferry was only licensed to carry 36 passengers. Many onboard were teachers and students on their way home for the Thadingyut holiday.
According to the most recent figures from the Sagaing regional government, 73 people died in the disaster with another seven still missing.
The ferry’s captain has been charged with rash handling of a vessel and negligent homicide under sections 280 and 304(a) of the penal code by police in Kani township.
“We are interrogating him now. We will arrest all those responsible for the disaster and try them in a court of law,” said a police captain from Kani township.
Four other members of the ferry’s crew have so far been arrested by police in connection with the tragedy.
Ma Mi Mi Aung, a survivor from the ferry disaster, yesterday told The Myanmar Times she was relieved that the captain had come forward.
“He ran away for a while as he was afraid of retribution. People died because of him. We are satisfied that he presented himself for arrest when he possessed a sound mind again. But we have to wait and see how the case is prosecuted and under what codes,” she said. “This cannot just be treated like an accident: It is a murder case through negligence of those who had the authority to properly supervise the ferry.”
Ferry accidents have become an all-too-common disaster in the country, with residents demanding an overhaul of the water transport network and its safety protocols in the wake of the most recent deadly incident. Mandalay residents have blamed the Inland Water Transport department for failing to properly scrutinise the sunken ferry’s licence and to check its capacity.
Sagaing Region’s Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transportation 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.
But survivors and the family members of the victims say more must be done to avert another tragedy.
“They need to be regularly testing the vessels in operation. They did not run any tests and many people died,” said Ma Khine Zin Kyaw, a survivor of the disaster from Kalay. “We want the government to appoint people who will really work hard to ensure the vessels meet regulations and will work to enforce the law. From my perspective, the government is most responsible for this case because they knowingly allowed this ferry to continue running without a licence for one year.”
Minister U Than Nyunt Win has announced that K2.2 million in compensation will be paid to the families of each person who perished in the accident. This amount is made up of contributions from the national government, the regional government, vessel associations and life insurance providers.
But some have said the amount promised is not enough.
“A soul of person cannot be counted with money. Now, the compensation is very little. Many teachers died. The families relying on the salary of the teachers will not have enough to live on with this compensation. The government should at least provide enough to support the dependents of the deceased,” said Daw Thit Thit Phyo, another survivor.
The government has previously pledged that all those with a share of culpability for the disaster, including public officials, will be called to account.
– Translation by Khine Thazin Han
Rescue workers try to dredge out the sunken ferry from the Chindwin River on October 18.