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 series and the military (all) and police & post-office (motorcycles only) continue with the incomprehensible Burmese.


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

The police continue with Burmese script on motorbikes, but their bigger vehicles switched to the new plates, indistinguishable from civilian plates. See


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



I was very surprised to find a CD still carrying its original plates, and on an old car. The new CD series have been further extended from CD and UN prefix to IO and also to no-prefix – for non-diplomatic embassy staff.


CD 5 is from the embassy of Pakistan


UN plates’ leading number must indicate a branch of the organisation, but we have no breakdown yet. UN 15-1 (Head of Mission) seen at Yangon Airport (which is brand new and very impressive to those who arrive expecting a tin hut surrounded by angry generals.


Embassy personnel without Diplomatic Immunity are issued cd-type plates, seemingly starting from 1000, and uncoded, without CD lettering.


The new International Organisation plates commence at 1000. This vehicle is attached to a German Institute. 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, to my mind…..



This is an unusual bus in that it carries a translation plate G-4617 from the 1950s-2013 series.     It was the only one seen.


Normal bus and taxi plates 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 below).



AA-4160 — An early new-series plate pressed without a regional code.



Smarter, newer bus and taxi plates in blue are for the use of foreign visitors and can these legally accept currency other than the Burmese Kyat, with which few visitors travel!     (The rate is about 1750:stg£1 and 1350:US$1 at month-end Jan 2017.)         Now there are ATM’s in the country and it has become very much easier to obtain currency at a fair rate and without wielding passports or standing in hot queues.


YGN 7I-6590  —  A foreign-tourist-authorised taxi, registered in the normal NL-NNNN system.


The normal Private, Police and Government plates are white on black, 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.


MDY 4M-4552, from Mandalay, above


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



Heavy trailers have a series of their own, previously unknown:


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:


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


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 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


O, P, Q, S serial letters are bunched. T and V also seen. The minder of the government yard in which these old commercials was parked, 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 just owners of old kit which they want to keep driving about, and to do that, the authorities tell them to translate their old plates in to western script, adding the regional code,    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.  The ‘R’ prefix became lost and only the serial letter was given in that period.  When that wa exhausted, a serial prefix number was employed, just as today.     Almost 60 years of squiggles-only then ensued, until the new, coloured-plate 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 own plates made up in differing fonts and sizes, to show themselves up.      If one is well-connected here, 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



RD 1802 with CD oval on a 1952 Packard Clipper.      This former British-India series never reached RE in western script, but continued in Burmese, and without the initial ‘R’.  Later, as the single-letter prefixes were used up, a leading number was used, and still is by the motorcycles.


The swansong of Nuffield Group in Burma.    A Morris Oxford MO and and a Wolseley (6/80?) pose  outside the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, probably about 1952 and already the switch to squiggles is evident.     Cars like these were still running in Burma until about six years ago, due to the ban on imports, but the slow opening-up of the country has brought thousands of cheap, used, right-hand-drive cars in from Japan.   Burma drove on the left until the 1970s, and though it is now to the right, all its vehicles remain right-hand-drive!

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 link – which will shortly be generally distributed in any event.

VWB Kuala Lumpur 10.02.17



3 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.

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