Friday, 15 November 2019

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Home > News > Inside Burma > Minister pushed to resolve Sittwe school bus fare row

Minister pushed to resolve Sittwe school bus fare row


New Delhi (Mizzima) – Science and Technology Minister U Thaung visited the western port of Sittwe yesterday to resolve a dispute over school bus fares after students marched in protest against a 50 per cent ticket price rise.

The bus fare was increased to 300 Kyats on Monday, leading to the protests and the visit by the minister, who presided over talks which ended in the rate being returned to its original 200 Kyats.

“The Science and Technology Ministry Minister U Thaung came to Sittwe and met local authorities, the regional operations commander, the university rector and teachers and negotiated with them to set new bus fares”, a resident from Lanmadaw Ward, Sittwe city, told Mizzima.

“The minister told us to use the train service instead but teachers explained to him that it is impractical as it is slow, unpunctual and unreliable,” he said. “He then agreed to fix the bus fare again at 200 Kyats.”

U Thaung is a hardliner in the regime’s cabinet and also a close aide to junta leader Senior General Than Shwe.

Sittwe Technical Institute is situated near Yechanpyin village, 12 miles (19 kilometres) northwest of Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, and is accessible by road and rail. After the bus fare was raised, more than 300 of its students marched to the city centre and chanted slogans in front of the state’s peace and development council offices, demanding a resolution.

“Some of the parents of these students joined in the protests and staged their demonstrations in front of the … offices,” the Lanmadaw Ward resident said. “Then the principal arrived and promised to solve the problem. Only after that the crowd dispersed at about 10:30 p.m.”

Students can rely only road transport for going to classes as the rail service is often late and tracks are frequently damaged.

This railway is the first rail service for the state and was inaugurated on May 19 last year and the fare from Sittwe to Yechanpyin is 100 Kyats.

“The students have come to rely only on their school buses. Some have to take a cycle rickshaw first to reach the bus stop, which costs them 100 to 200 Kyats, a resident in Kyaungtetlan Ward said.

“Doubling the fares caused them a lot of trouble. They get their money from their parents who are struggling to make ends meet,” the resident said.

Sittwe residents said that there were rumours circulating that local authorities were trying to find out who had organised the protest.

There are three tertiary institutions in Sittwe and include Sittwe University, four miles west of the city and Computer University, southwest near the prison.

Sittwe University students staged similar protests in 2006, 2008 and last year.

 

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