Police are cracking down on reckless drivers who are turning Yangon’s main streets into late-night race tracks.
They have set up nightly checkpoints to curb dangerous driving, and arrested drivers found to be drunk or on drugs.
“We’ve been setting up checkpoints from early November at five major locations on Insein Road, Kokkine Road, Hledan, Lay Daung Kan in Thingangyun and in Kyauktada township to stop illegal car racing and to search for weapons, including knives, knuckledusters and baseball bats and so on. Anyone caught with a weapon will be charged,” a Myanmar Police Force spokesperson said.
The crackdown comes after one passenger was killed when a car crashed after a suspected race, and about 20 drivers have already been arrested.
Police say the drivers leave nightclubs after drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs and drive recklessly on the streets of Yangon. They decided to set up the checkpoints to deter violence and stop what one officer described as “anarchy” on the streets.
The illegal races usually take place on the weekend from 11pm to 3am.
Favoured locations are Bogyoke Aung San Road, Pyay Road from the Inya Road to 8 Mile junctions, and Kabar Aye Pagoda Road from University Avenue to Parami Road junctions. The speed limit along these roads for buses is 20 kilometres an hour and for private cars 48km an hour.
Police say that on the night of November 3-4, a number of drivers were arrested for speeding and found to be unlicensed on Kabar Aye Pagoda Road.
Over a two-day period, six people were arrested for reckless driving and fined, while from Saturday, November 3 to Tuesday, November 6, 14 drivers were arrested but none were found with weapons.
“If those drivers who confessed are arrested again, they will be fined again and lose their licences,” the police spokesperson said.
He said the crackdown will continue through to December 31 but also acknowledged that the police force has insufficient officers and vehicles to deal with the problem.
Residents told The Myanmar Times they welcomed the move to bring some law and order to Yangon streets.
“I was out driving one night when I was forced to pull over as cars raced past me at high speed. We’re just doing our job, but these sports car drivers are out on a spree,” taxi driver U Zaw Zaw, 40, said.
U Aye Lwin, 44, the owner of a mini-mart on Kabar Aye Pagoda Road, said: “These races have been going on for at least three years. One night, someone crashed into the back of my parked car in front of the mart, sending it flying. The driver who hit my car wasn’t killed, but his passenger was.”
Yangon police also made a point of saying they are prepared to take action against errant drivers, even if they are the sons and daughters of government officials or prominent businesspeople.
The children and grandchildren of several prominent Myanmar identities have been strongly linked to illegal street racing and associated violence.