For those of you who aren’t über history nerds, here’s a fun fact — 46 years ago today, on December 6, 1970, Myanmar made the super radical change from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right side.
Twitter user Renaud Egreteau uncovered a Guardian article from the following day titled “Right-hand side traffic brought into operation without a hitch” to mark the big switch.
The piece boasts, “Without so much as a hitch, motorists all over the country have gone through the change-over to the new traffic system of driving on the right hand side of the road.”
Under the command of the British empire, Myanmar drivers first started out on the left side of the road. Although British rule ended in 1948, we remained a driving-on-the-left-side kinda country for the next 22 years.
However, in 1970, General Ne Win — who was Prime Minister from 1958 to 1960 and 1962 to 1974, and Head of State from 1962 to 1981 — decided that Myanmar would switch to driving on the right side of the road.
Why? Well, no one really knows.
However, there are a couple of theories as to why the general had this sudden change of mind, none of which make any real sense (but then again, neither do several things in this country).
One theory is that Ne Win’s wife’s astrologer told the general that it would be better for the country if people started driving on the right side. While that might sound weird to some, astrology is huge in Myanmar, so this story might very well be true.
Another popular theory is that Ne Win had a dream that the country should switch directions, and well, we did.
Ultimately, it was the general who decided that the country should start driving on the right side, and lo and behold, it happened.
Of course, it gets more confusing when you consider that most of the current cars in Myanmar are right-hand drives, mainly because they’re Japanese imports. However, that might change next year when the new vehicle importation laws come into effect and only left-hand drives will be allowed in the country.
So there you have it — the history behind why Myanmar’s right-hand cars drive on the left side of the road despite the fact that there are still some traffic signs, especially in Yangon, facing the wrong direction.
But hey, what would our wonderful country be without a few eccentricities?
Correction: An earlier version stated that the change took place on December 7, 1970, 12 years after the end of British colonial rule. It took place on December 6, 1970, 22 years after the end of British colonial rule. We have also corrected the spelling of ‘uber’ to ‘über.’ We apologize for the errors.