“At present, the majority of the bus ridership is staff. We are unable to generate the profits as we don’t charge the fares fixed for the public and have to operate it at half-price.” Than Chaung, Director of Transportation Division of IEC

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Caption - Demoso-Mawchi-Mese bus line gate.

An interview with Than Chaung, Director of IEC’s Transportation Division, about the operation of the Demoso-Mawchi-Mese bus line.

Under the arrangement of the Transportation Division of Commerce, Investment and Communication Department under the Karenni State Interim Executive Council (IEC), Demoso-Mawchi-Mese bus line started its operation in November 2023.

Kantarawaddy Times interviewed Than Chaung, Director of Transportation Division under the IEC’s Trade, Investment and Communication, about the operation of Demoso-Mawchi-Mese bus line, the use of bus line by passengers, security measures taken for passengers, the spending of money earned from the bus line.

Q: What is the current situation of the bus line operated by the IEC?

A: Yes, we are still running the bus line. In November last year, the bus line was put into service. The ridership increased in November and December. Now, this bus line runs twice a week. On Monday, the bus leaves for Mese. The bus leaves Mese for Demoso the same day. On Tuesday, the bus leaves Demoso for Mese. Under the current situation, the bus operation is disrupted by the rains. When the car engine is out of order, sometimes the trip takes one or two nights. Currently, we are running the bus service.

Q: Will there be any alterations to the bus line’s operations due to the onset of the rainy season?

A: We aim to maintain our regular operations as much as possible during this time. We will try to maintain normal operations, taking into account road and weather conditions. In the past, we normally ran the bus line on Monday.  However, the bus will not reach the designation at Monday’s night.  We can’t say exactly. It can be an overnight trip. Our intention is to keep the bus line operational to the best of our ability.

Q: How do you ensure the safety of passengers through your safety measures?

A: For the safety of passengers, we carefully select suitable routes after conducting a thorough analysis of ground conditions. However, we can’t guarantee protection against airstrikes from the sky. In the event of such a situation, we will do our utmost to ensure the safety of passengers. There is no absolute guarantee. We can’t predict when an aerial attack may occur.

Q: How is the current operation of the bus line? Is there an increase in bus ridership?

A: Compared to the past, bus ridership has increased. Additionally, goods are transported as part of our services. Currently, we are providing our services while running at a loss. Under the current situation, the people take other vehicles and transport goods. The primary goal of this bus line is to prioritize public welfare, with a focus on ensuring smooth and efficient public transportation. In the past, health groups faced challenges in transporting medicines for public health purposes. Access to cars was not readily available. On their request, we provide free transportation of medicines as they offer free medical services. We offer free transportation for the injured and comrades in need of emergency medical treatment. Under normal circumstances, we offer a fifty percent discount on ticket prices for comrades and staff. Thanks to it, the majority of the bus ridership is staff members. We have not generated profit due to operating the bus line at half-price. Additionally, the public has gradually become aware of and started using the bus line. Therefore, we would like to affirm our commitment to continue operating it after careful consideration of all factors.

Q: So, can you say that this bus line has not generated any profit until now?

A: The tax levied on a vehicle for one trip is Ks-150,000. The IEC gets tax revenues as we send them to the IEC. To be clear, even bus owners don’t make a profit. In an effort to cover costs such as driver and conductor salaries and vehicle repairs, we have to transport goods when there are no passengers or freight.

Q: What is the maximum number of passengers a bus can carry?

A: Our bus can carry a maximum of 15 passengers. Now the maximum ridership is five to six. Sometimes seven. However, we operate the bus even if there is only one passenger. When there are sometimes 17-18 passengers, we operate two buses. We provide this service accordingly.

Q: How many trips have you operated since the start of the bus line?

A: Normally, we run buses twice a week. So you can calculate the total number of trips. We deploy additional buses when we can operate one bus due to the machine breakdown or when we have to transport emergency goods and patients. We can check the exact number of trips on the list. But we can’t provide an exact figure at the moment.

Q: How are the tax revenues generated from the bus line being allocated? In which sectors are these tax revenues intended to be utilized?

A: We collect Ks-150,000 in tax for one trip. From this amount, we deduct the salaries of staff members such as the manager and office clerk, as well as ticket fees. We allocate these funds for bus repairs. Any surplus is returned to our department to be reimbursed to the IEC’s finance department. In my view, the IEC is using all tax revenues for the interest of the public. Currently, we have commenced work to repair the Demoso-Mawchi road.

Q: Do you have any plan to expand the current route to other towns?

A: To tell the truth, the IEC is not only the Interim Executive Council but also a government entity. As a government entity, there may be no rationale for engaging in business operations, and therefore, it shouldn’t undertake business activities. In the current situation, there are needs for the public. Therefore, we operate the bus line to fulfill the needs of the public. Our focus is not on profit, but rather on ensuring smooth transportation and travel experiences for the public. Private bus lines are likely to emerge once the situation returns to normal. At that time, we are ready to issue registrations and permits for the bus line.

Q: There are some people who can’t afford bus fares. How do you deal with situations like this?

A: Yes, we have encountered this situation. However, we have not publicly disclosed this information. We have not shared this information with anyone. As mentioned earlier, there are indeed individuals facing such circumstances. We provide transportation for individuals who can’t afford bus fares. If they do not have anyone to meet them upon arrival at Mese and Demoso, we have to provide them with food for four or five days.

Q: Some people are criticizing that the prices are a bit high for passengers. How would you like to respond to this?

A: There is criticism that the ticket prices set by the IEC are considered very expensive. However, people are compelled to pay Ks-400,000-500,000 for the trip to Mawchi when using cargo vehicles. We have significantly reduced ticket prices. There are slight adjustments to ticket prices based on fuel oil fluctuations. Ticket prices are influenced by changes in fuel oil prices.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add about the IEC’s bus line?

A: The bus line is run by the IEC, which is a government entity. There is criticism from individuals who never utilize buses, claiming that the IEC’s bus fares are overly expensive. We would like to say that those who have actually used our bus line are well aware of its services and operations. As mentioned earlier, we are unable to make public announcements about our operations. If we are assisting those in need, every individual may seek help from us. So, we want the public to understand the fact that we are providing humanitarian aid to the best of our ability, considering that we have not yet become a fully established government with sufficient tax funds. We would like to convey a message to those who criticize us, suggesting that instead of criticizing from the sidelines, they contribute by offering their support and assistance.

Sent by Kantarawaddy Times.

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