Junta officials in some townships say men risk being shot if they ride the same motorcycle together

Junta authorities in several townships across Myanmar have warned residents that if two or more men ride together on the same motorcycle they risk being shot, in an apparent attempt to stifle anti-regime guerrilla fighters launching hit-and-run attacks. 

The new rule, which residents said was issued in parts of Sagaing, Tanintharyi, and Mandalay regions, also says that if a man and woman are riding a motorcycle together, the man must be the driver. 

The ban reportedly does not apply if one or more of the men is elderly. 

In a video shared online on Sunday, a local official riding in a truck with a loudspeaker tells residents in Mandalay Region’s Meiktila Township that the rule will be enforced starting from Tuesday, when violators will have their bikes confiscated. 

The consequences for breaching the rule will become more severe on Thursday, he adds: “We would like to warn that after November 18, anyone who violates these regulations will be shot and arrested.” 

Reports of similar warnings emerged from Monywa Township in Sagaing, Dawei Township in Tanintharyi, and Taungthar and Kyaukpadaung townships in Mandalay Region, where many use motorcycles to commute to work. 

In Kyaukpadaung on Thursday, shortly before the warning was issued, bombs exploded at a security checkpoint, a high school where soldiers were stationed, and a branch of the military-owned Innwa Bank, said a local man who wanted to remain anonymous. 

There were four more bomb blasts at the township’s city development office two days later, he added. 

“The announcement said that only one man was allowed to ride a motorcycle but that two women can ride a single motorcycle. It also said that two people can ride a single motorcycle if one or both of them is elderly,” he said.

In Dawei Township, locals were not warned via loudspeakers about the rule but said they saw a copy of an order from the police shared on a community Facebook page, Dawei Watch reported.

Two men riding a motorbike in front of a high school on Monday morning were stopped and beaten by six junta soldiers “as a warning”, according to a Dawei local who requested anonymity. 

A military outpost in Yangon on October 7 (EPA)

And on Sunday two men riding a motorcycle near a skate park in Dawei’s Wekyun ward, were stopped by soldiers and asked to pay a “fine”, then taken into custody because they were unable to pay the money, the local man added. 

Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the man’s reports. 

Aung Soe, chief of the Tanintharyi Regional Police Force, told Myanmar Now that no order regarding men on motorcycles has been issued and he had not heard of any incidents like those the local man described. 

Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun could not be reached for comment.

The new rule will cause hardship for civilians who depend on motorcycles to get around and for their livelihoods, said a Meiktila resident. 

“The cops and soldiers get to ride motorcycles in any way that they want,” he said. “I’ve even seen three cops riding a single motorcycle. It’s unfair that they make such rules for us civilians.” 

“The motorcycle taxi drivers and people from the villages who come to town to do their shopping will suffer the most,” he added.

“They’re not even taking the wellbeing of the people into consideration anymore,” said a man from Taungthar. “They’re just doing whatever they please.” 

Anti-junta resistance fighters, sometimes riding motorcycles, have launched hundreds of attacks in urban areas in recent months, killing local administrators, military informants, police and soldiers and detonating explosives at government offices. 

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