Right to left: Myanmar cops help regulate traffic in Indian border town
India and Myanmar have a free movement agreement that allows people to visit each other’s countries up to 16 km from the zero line on the international borderUpdated: Aug 17, 2017 11:09 IST
It is not right in Myanmar to drive on the left side of the road. But following the rules of the road often puts Myanmar citizens on the wrong side of the law when the drive into India.
India and Myanmar, formerly called Burma, have a free movement agreement that allows people on either side of the border to visit each other up to 16 km from the zero line that separates the two countries.
People of the two countries also drive into each other’s territory within the specified limit for trading of more than 60 items including edible oil, tea, semi-precious stones, motorcycles and vehicles below 100cc capacity.
The hub of this border trade is Moreh, a town in Manipur about 110 km from state capital Imphal and parked on the border with Myanmar.
Every day, scores of traders from Myanmar arrive at Moreh on two or four-wheelers to buy Indian goods or sell their wares. While business has flourished despite interruptions such as highway blockade, the inability of Myanmar citizens to adjust to driving on the left side on Indian soil has often led to traffic snarls and accidents.
“Traffic rules in Myanmar are different from ours. This has resulted in accidents in the past and could cause major mishaps in the future,” Kh Raghumani Singh, deputy commissioner of Tengnoupal district said.
On August 10, he finally wrote to his Myanmar counterpart stationed at Tamu, the nearest town across the border about 5km from Moreh: “You are requested to kindly instruct all Myanmar vehicles to abide by Indian traffic rules and regulations after entering Indian territory without fail immediately.”
On Wednesday, Myanmar police sent a few personnel to help Manipur police regulate traffic on the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge across the border on the road linking Moreh and Tamu. The Myanmar police had to occasionally cross over to make their citizens – habituated to driving on the right side of the road – to be on the “Indian right ride”.
“The Myanmar police are very cooperative now, and they have been instructing drivers in their language to be on the left side of the road in India. They are also guiding their drivers accordingly,” a police officer in Moreh said.
A British colony until 1948, Myanmar used to drive on the left side of the road. But on December 6, 1970 the country suddenly made a switch to the right side.
Tengnoupal district superintendent of police S Ibomcha said the traffic police have put up hoardings at the border town in Burmese language to assist Myanmar citizens. Unlike in the past, a traffic sub-inspector has been assigned to head traffic control at Moreh for 12 hours from 6am.
First Published: Aug 17, 2017 10:34 IST