Special License Plates

By Julian Dierkes

Okay, I confess, I’m a bit of a license plate geek, but only a little bit.

Maybe this is one of those things that growing up in (West) Berlin did to me. While the West German cousins had lots of different kinds of license plates all around, for the most part we only ever saw “B-” and that made us, well me at least, curious about the other strange license plates on visiting cars. Go ahead, google something like license plates, and you will find a whole community of enthusiasts!

Fast forward to regular visits to Ulaanbaatar and I can’t help but look at license plates and figure them out. Mongolian plates are relatively straightforward in that they have a two-letter abbreviation for the aimag where the car is registered. For Ulaanbaatar, that is УБ or УН. The third letter seems to be randomly assigned followed by a four-digit number. Of course, that number matters in the capital as it determines days on which the car cannot be driven around (1, 6 = Monday 2, 7 = Tuesday, etc.).

Official Cars

In January 2018, there was a bit of a Twitter uproar over Justice Minister Ts Nyamdorj’ new car.

Note the license plate, 0101 УБҮ. But while at one time “official” cars were recognizable by their license plates, this seems to have led to so much abuse that these official plates have been abandoned. Military (ЦАБ) and border patrol (ХЦА) are still recognizable by their numbers.

Diplomatic Plates

Then there are the red, diplomatic license plates. They start with the letters ДK to signal corps diplomatique. Embassies receive license plates that follow the ДK with a two-digit number that signals the embassy this car belongs to. The numbers are assigned in the order that embassies were set up in Ulaanbaatar, I think:

01 = Russia | 02 = China | 03 = North Korea | 04 = Czech Republic | 05 = Hungary | 06 = Germany | 07 = Vietnam | 09 = Bulgaria | 10 = Cuba | 12 = Kazakhstan | 13 = UK | 14 = Turkey | 15 = India | 16 = Japan | 18 = Laos |  19 = USA | 20 = South Korea | 22 = France | 24 = Kuwait | 25 = Slovakia | 26 = Canada | 30 = Australia | 32 = EU.

I’m still trying to find out why some numbers are missing (08, 11, 17, 21, 23). Perhaps they were assigned to embassies that have closed down in the meantime? Yugoslavia seems to have been 11. Presumably, there were two different numbers for Germany (East and West) at some point, so perhaps that is one of the missing numbers?

There are additional red license plates that are used for international organizations, etc. ДK 9900 are generally cars registered to the UN and its organizations. Some of the (honorary) consulates also get diplomatic plates.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots @jdierkes@sciences.social and tweets @jdierkes
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