Myanmar Traffic PoliceBurma Traffic Police
Yangon's hero, swinging force of Stop and Go
YANGON, Myanmar - For almost 12 hrs a day, Sergeant Khin Myint Maung is standing in one of the most messy crossroads in this chronic stalemate town, unraveling traffic with patient and tireless comedy. It' not the most likely conclusion for a Heroes of the Year, which was awarded by a major Swiss paper, or the appointment as "role model" by the Yangon police or "hero of reality " by a charity in Germany.
The 26-year-old from the province, however, who was recently named Sarge, has deserved all these accolades and has only become famous through verbal propaganda. It' almost not possible to find a cabbie in Yangon who won' t be lyric about the sergeant' s capacity to steer traffic through rain and scorching heats.
Over the past few years, the roads of Myanmar's biggest town have often been so empty that cabbies have been able to test the force of gravitation as they screamed down the meandering roads. Nowadays, the development of a paralyzing standstill in Yangon is perhaps the most evident indication that Myanmar is open for trade after five years of monastic warfare.
In just three years, the number of vehicles licensed in the town has doubled to over 400,000. In this new Myanmar, where owning a vehicle is no longer the sole preserve of the super-rich, Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has evolved as a new kind of citizen heroes.
He was not a defender of humankind's right, a Philanthrope or someone who rescued a puppy from a burning fire, but a traffic policeman. Uniformed men are still very much dreaded and scorned in Myanmar, but Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has won the heart of a legion of former crusty riders who are rolling down their window to give him freezing flasks of bottled cold and crates of grub.
Surgeant will accept all these loot with a lightning bolt from his perfectly whitened teeths shining in the rain. During the few leagues when Sgt. Khin Myint Maung was away from his position, the neighboring area fell into confusion, among other things two month ago, when he travelled to Naypyidaw, the country's capitol, to celebrate his promotions to Sgt.
"It was horrible for three whole day. The vehicles didn't move. Sgt Khin Myint Maung's appeal is not a trust for the traffic police, known to shake off drivers, nor is it a homage to a new administration largely made up of remnants of the army before it.
He is praised, if anything, by his supporters for the sergeant's tacit critique of the remainder of the traffic police and red tape. There is a shortage of superheroes in Myanmar. "It' s very difficult to find officials deserving of the award," said Daw Nyein Nyein Naing, editor-in-chief of the 7 Day News Journal, which began awarding its seasonal record in 2012, when the country' s press was freed from five centuries of censure.
The pace of transformation in Myanmar varies. Bureaucracies are still awaiting orders, as they did during our army government. However, the roads of Yangon do not look like five years ago, when most of the vehicles were so old and decayed that the city traffic looked like a scrap yard on wheels. Forty year old Jalopie's spat olive groves on the sidewalk, and on wet weather, clients had to put their legs over the taxi floor to prevent bubbling upwards.
Then three years ago, the goverment abolished its strict import controls on cars, and as if a counter had been flipped, a new automobile crop was created in Yangon. It is now vital to have a traffic news broadcast for those who want to prevent the most serious traffic jams. "Traffic police have launched a Facebook page this year inviting riders to submit pictures of other riders who violate the traffic laws.
The 34-year-old wood carver U Win Tin, who is living on the edge of Yangon, spent half an hour near the Shwedagon Pagoda, a famous gold relics. Now, it would take two and a half minutes to drive a coach without AC. "but I wouldn't want to go back to the old days," he said.
Second hand Japan is competing with a number of luxurious and exclusive vehicles. Sgt Khin Myint Maung runs Range Rovers, which are not out of place in Beverly Hills and American S.U.V.s, which seem far too broad for Yangon's streets. A blatant recollection of the gap between wealthy and wealthy in Myanmar gives him the value of $150 a months, a wage that could buy him one of these vehicles at the end of his car racing careers - if he would save every cent.
He' s a big boy with a big smiling face, but sparing with words. In 2012, when he received his Heroic Prize, he was on stage in a large banqueting room in a Yangon based motel. "``We gave him three moments for a speech,` said Mrs. Nyein Nyein Naing, who chaired the prize comittee: with the headline: