Myanmar to reform police force following UN report

YANGON: A more comprehensive training system may be introduced for police officers in Myanmar after authorities acknowledged that the lack of such a system may have led to officers previously using excessive force on protesters.

One such incident that caught international attention was in March 2015, when officers were seen using force on students demonstrating against an education law. The incident left several students and police officers injured.

Myanmar’s plan to further reform its police force comes on the back of a report that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched in the capital Nay Pyi Taw on Monday (May 16).

The report provides a review of the Myanmar police training system and made recommendations on what needs to be improved. It highlighted how the curricula are not aligned with international police training standards.

Components such as how to ensure that human rights are not violated and how to deal with community violence are also observed to be missing in police training.

The UNODC is suggesting a number of improvements including reducing focus on drill and military skills, upgrading training facilities and providing specific training for officers in areas such as corruption and economic crimes.

Myanmar’s deputy police chief, Brigadier-General Thein Oo admitted that the police officers need greater awareness on how to better manage communal violence.

He said there is no need for force as the first course of action in dealing with protesters.

“If they don’t want to talk, they want to break the law; we have to (take) action. But (we) must not use too much force – just balancing, power balancing …  So first we have to meet and negotiate and not break the law and if (it is broken), we must (take) action,” added the deputy police chief.

The Myanmar Police Force and the UNODC agree that it is now crucial for law enforcement officers to reform its practices especially when the country is transitioning to democracy.

They admit that a transformation in the police force will also enable the officers to deal with increasing transboundary crimes and challenges.

UNODC’s Myanmar country manager Troels Vester highlighted how as ASEAN becomes more integrated, Myanmar may also face more of these transboundary challenges.

“One area would be terrorism, another area would be money-laundering, another area would be human trafficking,” said Mr Vester. “We’ve also noticed that for instance, there’s a number of armed conflicts going around in Myanmar but the police officer, the first responder is not trained on dealing with people from different ethnic backgrounds.”

“If you’re the first responder to a crime but you’ve not learned how to deal with different ethnic backgrounds, you can run into trouble in dealing with the case.  So a lot of it is very much linked to the peace process as well,” he added.

– CNA/hs/mn

Source: Channel NewsAsia

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