Friday, August 18, 2017

Highway car washers fear for jobs after Public Works demand

Car wash shops clinging to a precarious livelihood along the Pyin Oo Lwin Road, Mandalay Region, are anxiously awaiting the outcome of an apparently official instruction to close down their businesses. The shops, strung out between mileposts 16.5 and 19, all received letters earlier this month ordering them to close by May 14.

A car is washed beside the highway running between Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region. (Si Thu Lwin/The Myanmar Times)A car is washed beside the highway running between Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region. (Si Thu Lwin/The Myanmar Times)

Some did. Most stayed, having nowhere else to go, they say. As of yesterday, no action had been taken against them.

The letter, dated May 11 and received the same day, was apparently sent by the Department of Public Works of the Ministry of Construction. It was signed by an official named as U Lat, township assistant engineer, but bore no official seal. The letter objected to the shops’ presence on an area designated as road.

“We wash cars. It’s honest work. We provide water too. When cars break down or accidents happen, we are ones who help. Now we’re being told to take down our temporary shops because we’re not allowed on the road. But what about the shops along the Mandalay-Pyin Oo Lwin Road?” said Ko Soe Tun Aung, 35, who has run a shop in the area about five years.

There are about 50 shops along the stretch of road in question, and all have received the letter.

Another stallholder, Ko Tun Min Lat, said yesterday he and his wife had been jailed in 2013 for running a shop on the road. Despite the threat of jail, he said the number of shops had increased significantly over the past year.

“Although we’re scared, my wife and I do this for our living,” he said.

The stallholders gather water that flows down the hill and store it to wash passing cars and motorcycles.

Contacted by The Myanmar Times yesterday, staff officer U Lat of Pyin Oo Lwin Public Works Department declined to comment.

Translation by Kyawt Darly Lin