Myanmar-Burma 2017

A side-trip to Myanmar from our base in Kuala Lumpur, via the cheap and excellent airline, Air Asia, gave me the long-awaited opportunity to photo the plates of that backward land.    Burma re-plated in October 2013, changing from all-Burmese script to all-western alphabet, though there are still vehicles running with the original script.    All military vehicles and every type of motorcycle continues with the incomprehensible Burmese only.


The motorcycle series is unchanged in local script, which in this case reads 34 Ya 44226.

The police continue with Burmese script on motorbikes, but their bigger vehicles switched to the standard new plates, indistinguishable from civilian plates.       See NPW 6H-9883 below.


Commercial vehicles have always displayed a copy of their registrations along the sides of the vehicle and this is an former-series supplementary reg. J 3280, in Burmese, carried on a lorry with westernised translation  front and rear plates J 3280 (below).    (The only one such seen with mixed script formats.)



CD-4/6  —  I was surprised to find a CD still carrying previous-series plates –  on an old car.     The new CD type has been extended from only the CD and UN prefix by adding code IO for International Organisations.      No letter-prefix at all would identify non-diplomatic embassy staff – NDES.  (See YGN 1-1020 below.)


YGN CD 5-5  —  CD code 5 above is from the embassy of Pakistan in Yangon.


UN plates’ leading numbers indicate a branch of the organisation – see breakdown in RPWO.    UN 15-1 (1=Head of  yet-unidentified Mission 15) seen at Yangon Airport (which is brand new and very impressive to those who arrive expecting a tin hut surrounded by angry generals).


YGN 1-1020  —  Embassy vehicles without Diplomatic Immunity are issued no-letter-prefix CD-type plates, seemingly starting from serial 1000, and uncoded.     Embassy 1 = USA, on a Toyota minibus.


YGN IO-1047  —  The new International Organisation plates’ serials commence at 1000.     This vehicle 1047  is attached to a German cultural Institute, though no coding shows on the plate.       Not many of the 2013-srs. plates are made with the horizontal substrate reading RTAD, as this one is, but all plates seem to have the top left and right stamps (as below).

bur-2013-plate-detail-rhs_vb bur-2013-plate-detail-lhs_vb



The least-seen (1!) of the new types was the green ‘foreign gift’ vehicle which in this case was a gift from the Red Cross/Red Crescent, YGN 3J-1815.     Note that all the categories of user take their registration from the single, common pool, so that the next issue after this green plate (3J-1816) could be a red taxi plate, or a black private plate etc.etc.


Only two of the yellow ReLiGious vehicles were seen, issued for the transport of the many Buddhist monks. Odd code system, to my mind, but a splendid plate YGB RLG-6894…….



This is an unusual ex-Japan Hino bus in that it carries a translation plate YGN G-4617 from the 1950s-2013 series, properly pressed in the latest style.     It was the only one of this type seen.


Taxi YGN HH-1104  —  Normal bus and taxi plates (PSV) are red and began in 2012-3 with pairs of letters preceding 1-9999.     For no known reason, when AA to HH had been issued, the pairing idea was discontinued and now the Public Service Vehicles are registered in the normal run 1A-1234.         The red background material is fading to dark brown on some of  the earlier plates, which are said to be Chinese-made, so unlikely to be using the 3M non-fade material.      The first of the AA plates were made without the regional code atop the plate (see AA 4160 below).



Taxi AA-4160 — One of the first 2013 new-series PSV plates, pressed without a regional code.



Tourist Taxi YGN 8H-6379  —  Smarter, newer bus and taxi plates coloured blue are for the use of foreign visitors and these may legally accept currency other than the Burmese Kyat (with which so few visitors travel!)     (The rate is about 1750:stg£1 and 1350:US$1 at month-end Jan 2017.)         At last there are street ATM’s in the country and it has become  easier to obtain currency at a fair rate and without showing passports or standing in long, hot queues.


YGN 7I-6590  —  A foreign-tourist-authorised taxi, registered in the normal NL-NNNN system, but in blue.     Both I and Q are used in Myanmar registrations.


The normal Private, Police and Government plates are white on black, all taken from the common system and uncoded:


SHN 3M-9788 is from Shan District – Taunggyi.    Likely to be a government car.


SGG 2F-3977, a Suzuki from Sagaing region, outside the legendary Strand Hotel on Strand Road in Rangoon/Yangon .


MDY 4M-4552, from Mandalay, above.


NPW 6H-9883 is a Napidaw-registered police lorry working in Rangoon, with a number taken from the normal register, and in white on black as for private vehicles.



Heavy trailers have a white-on-red series of their own, previously unrecorded: 1 TLR 4594 at the docks.


burtlr_1tlr-4594_cu_2017rangoon-docksvbThe 6 seen all had painted plates.   For the small run required, it probably isn’t worth manufacturing them…….


Some bicycles carry a plate at the front: can you translate?


There are no non-government 2-wheeled vehicles in central Yangon.

We were told that the ban on motorcycles in central Rangoon was brought about by the  sudden recognition by the generals who ran the country (and still run it, but are now out of uniform and in to business suits) of the ease with which a Honda 50cc carrying two unhappy citizens could slide alongside their Landcruisers in the eternal traffic jam of the capital and with a single shot, bring them Early to the Pearly Gates.


BELOW:    A quiz subject here.    A small m/c with a blue plate.   What is it??



Here are some examples of vehicles which have not changed their plates to the 2013 format, but instead, have fitted ‘translation plates’ from their old Burmese-script plates.     They are all small-medium commercial vehicles, which may mean something……

bur-58cremake-yangon_s-6339_truck-2017vb bur-58cremake-yangon_q-3594_mazda-truck-2017vb bur-58cremake-yangon_p-4138_cr_lrover-2017vb


YGN O 7078 – a Land Rover clone.     O, P, Q, S, T & V serial letters were  seen.      The apparent  ‘minder’ of the government yard in which these old commercials was photographed, said that they were ‘Ministry’ vehicles and that he himself was the Minister of Publicity and Public Affairs.      It may have been the local English in which he explained this to me, but I was unconvinced.      I think they are simply old machines which their owners want to keep using, and to do that, the authorities tell them to translate their old plates in to western script, and add the new regional code letters.     All registrations were centrally issued from Rangoon before Burma’s 1948 independence from Britain, and reached RD (from R, RA, RB, and RC) using western script.     In the next years until about 1955, there was a mix of alphabets on plates.  Then the  ‘R’ prefix became lost and only the serial letter was given in that period.  When that alphabet set was exhausted, a serial prefix number was employed, (eg 1-Ya 1234), just as today.     Almost 60 years of Burmese squiggles-only then ensued, until the new, pressed, coloured-coded plates came about in 2012-3.       However, there are brand-new cars circulating in Rangoon, bearing untranslated pre-2012 plates and I can only assume that these are VIPs who can buck the system.     There are also quite a few very grand cars which have had their 2013 plates made up in differing western fonts, materials and sizes, to show themselves up.      As usual around the world, if one is well-connected here, the laws don’t apply…..


And from history-man Karel Stoel, a blast from the Burmese past……………


Jungle stop to exchange info on road conditions, thought to be circa 1938.       Chevrolet LQ bus. RB 1824


     Gha / 4?53 about 1953 on a Morris J2 half-ton van.


RD 1802 with CD oval on a 1952 Packard Clipper.    No special format for diplomats then.       This former British-India series for Burma RA-RD  never reached RE in western script, but continued it in Burmese, and slowly dropped the initial ‘R’.     Later, as the single-letter Burmese-alphabet prefixes were used up, a leading serial number was added, and still is used, by motorcycles, which retain Burmese script.



The swansong of Nuffield Group in Burma.    A new Morris Oxford MO gha 2140 and and a Wolseley (6/80?) gha 2235  pose  outside Rangoon’s Shwe Dagon pagoda.     It is probably about 1952 and already the switch to Burmese  ‘squiggles’ is evident.     Due to the ban on imports, 60-year-old cars like these were still running in Burma until about six years ago, but now the slow opening-up of the country is bringing thousands of cheap, used, right-hand-drive cars in from Japan.   Burma drove on the left until the 1970s, and though it now drives on the right of the road, all its vehicles remain right-hand-drive!     There are now some car dealers, but no trade plates were found.

These are the sort of historic pictures the Club has gained from the acquisition of the Stoel albums. Paid-up members who wish to see the progress-to-date made in the scanning and identifications can email me for the hyperlink – which will shortly be generally distributed in any event.

VWB Kuala Lumpur 10.02.17 (and successively amended).


7 Responses to Myanmar-Burma 2017

  1. rogerkimbell says:

    Well, well, well. You certainly got more motoring intelligence out of your visit than I did Sir Vic.

    From: Europlate blog Reply-To: Europlate blog Date: Friday, 10 February 2017 10:43 To: Roger Subject: [New post] Myanmar-Burma 2017 Victor Brumby posted: “A side-trip to Myanmar from our base in Kuala Lumpur, via the cheap and excellent airline, Air Asia, gave me the long-awaited opportunity to photo the plates of that backward land. They re-plated in October 2013, changing from all-Burmese script to all”

  2. nice and interesting observations, thanks for sharing Vic.

  3. I see, the Stoel archives get you busy by scannning and commenting the info and photos for Euroblog. Great. Nice, these material is saved for platesters-archivists.

  4. Håkan W says:

    The “Land Rover clone” is a Mazda Pathfinder, one of a slew of early seventies vehicles intended for developing nations, one that was less successful than most. It is probably the only car ever to have been built in Burma exclusively.

  5. Jim Powers says:

    Honestly, a lot of good information. I’ve been in Myanmar for a few years and you’ve cleared up a lot of questions I had about the various plates. It’s a shame about the backwardness of the country and the annoying incomprehensible script. It can be very inconvenient.

  6. K says:

    Interesting. To add a few more Myanmar vehicle registration plates trivia, from the Facebook pages I just learned today that the Catholic Cardinal of Yangon is also being driven around in a yellow-background RLG plated car now – whereas these used to be issued exclusively to vehicles owned by Buddhist religious persons (natural or legal). Elsewhere on the web, it is said there is a separate plate series for hearses in Myanmar, uncreatively prefixed with letters HSE before the numbers.

    • Good new info, K-Aung – thanks. I’m impressed that the Generals accepted the Catholic top brass as worthy users of the RLG series.
      Somehow I cannot see them entertaining a request for privileged plates from Burma’s Moslem congregation! I note that you have decamped to the peace and harmony of lovely New Zealand – an excellent choice for those Burmans who find their way out……
      Victor Brumby (and with apologies for this very late acknowledgement),

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