Drivers of Yangon’s Toyota Hilux commuter buses staged two protests in the commercial capital on March 31 over a decision by the municipal authority to ban them from April 1.

About 300 people and 27 of the converted pick-up trucks paraded through the downtown area just before noon before converging at about 2pm outside the All Bus Lines Supervising Committee’s office in Yangon’s outer northeastern South Okkapala Township.

The Yangon City Development Committee has banned the vehicles from the municipal area because of safety concerns but an official from one of the lines operating the commuter service rejected the claim.

“All vehicles are at risk of accidents when the roads are not well maintained,” said U Kim Lin, the vice-chairman of the AungDagoonHilix service line. “They demand taxes from the Hilux drivers and yet they perform no maintenance; car accidents will continue if the roads are not fixed,” he said.

The YCDC wants purpose-built mini-buses to replace the converted Hilux pick-ups, which it says are more likely to be involved in accidents in which people are killed or seriously injured.

“They have told us to use mini-buses but this is only for the benefit and profit of those importing them,” said U Kim Lin. “The Hilux owners are poor and they cannot afford minibuses, they are far more expensive than the Hilux.”

The demonstrators held placards and posters demanding that the ban be revoked and calling for the abolition of the All Bus Lines Supervising Committee,which is responsible for enforcing the ban and levying fines on offenders.

Committee chair U HlaAung said it was the Yangon Region government’s decision to implement the ban.

“Any reversal is entirely within its jurisdiction; our duty is merely to enforce the rules,” U HlaAung said.

U Kim Lin said his company would defy the ban and if it was not lifted within a week, Hilux bus owners and drivers planned to protest outside the parliament in Nay Pyi Taw.

The ban was originally due to take effect at the end of January but was postponed because of pressure from Hilux owners and drivers.