Engineers will have to acquire a professional licence if they want to practise in Myanmar in future. Though the law requiring registration was passed two years ago, authorities have been slow in enforcing it.

There are about 500 registered senior engineers (RSE) and 350 professional engineers (PE) in the country who hold engineering licences. Many more are working without licences, said Myanmar Engineering Council (MEC) chair U Win Myint, who is also deputy minister for construction.

As reported in state-owned media, at a recent ceremony awarding PE certificates, U Win Myint said, “Engineers who work without a licence face action under the law.”

The announcement led to a flood of applications for licences to the engineering council, according to one engineer, who requested anonymity. “Engineers now need a licence the way doctors need a medical licence to practise here,” he said.

However, MEC vice chair U Aung Myint told The Myanmar Times that the focus was mainly on ensuring chief engineers are licensed, as they bear special responsibility for on-site operations. “The engineer-in-charge must have a licence [PE or RSE] issued by the council. Other engineers can work under their supervision,” he said.

RSE engineers can lead construction projects of up to eight storeys, and PE engineers can work on buildings with eight storeys or more, he said, nothing that there has been an increase in applications for both qualifications.

But critics say the system of awarding licences is haphazard and the content of the exams is not relevant to real engineering work.

Ko Wai Lin Aye, general field engineer at Schlumberger, said, “Many people aren’t happy with the process.”

He said the MEC had no standardised system or plan for awarding licences, and that the content of the courses was not relevant to engineering in practice.

Civil engineer Ma Thair Nu Swe, who has five years’ experience, said acquiring a licence was time-consuming, particularly for engineers who were already working.

“When I started work no licence was required. Now that I have to get one, it’s difficult to find the time. There are so many unlicensed engineers. They should allow time for us to get the qualification,” she said.

Yangon requires a separate licence for civil engineers on construction projects, issued by Yangon City Development Committee ‘s Department of Engineering (Building).

Deputy department head U Nay Win said some engineers working in the city would need both qualifications.

“We grant building permits to projects supervised by an engineer with a YCDC licence. Holders of the PE or RSE licence have to have the city licence as well, because they have to be familiar with city regulations,” he said.