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EU Crowd Management Training Supports Reform of Myanmar Police Force

By Office of the European Union in Myanmar  •  February 20, 2014

Programme emphasises respect for democratic rights of citizens

Yangon. “With the Crowd Management Training the European Union wants to contribute to improve the human rights performance of the Myanmar Police Force and initiate the development of a police service that respects and protects democratic rights of citizens”, explained EU Ambassador Roland Kobia at a press briefing in Yangon on Thursday. “Recent incidents  in Letpadaung Taung, Meiktila and other places underline the need for the police to change the way they operate”, Ambassador Kobia pointed out.

The project has trained so far 1419 police officers of various battalions in best international practice in Crowd Management. Experienced police officers from EU Member States demonstrate how to secure and protect the democratic rights of citizens to gather and demonstrate and at the same time prevent or stop communal, inter-religious and protest-related violence by using as little force as possible.

During an Open Door Day for media at the Police Battalion No 8 Camp in Yangon, the EU presented typical Crowd Management methods based on best international practice that are used in the training exercises. Each training session lasts two weeks and starts with an introduction to human rights in policing, an understanding of crowd dynamics and how to best prevent the escalation of violence. “Both in the classroom and on the training ground the EU training team constantly underpins the tactics being taught with the principles of de-escalation, “negotiate first”, and the obligation to avoid the use of force wherever possible. All trained police tactics understand force only as the last resort which is always bound to clear guidelines. We therefore teach, based on realistic scenarios, how to use the appropriate level of force, when necessary, while respecting the rights of the protesters”, explained Component Leader Patrick Gistelinck.

In a typical scenario MPF trainees have to plan a police operation to safely escort a prominent person to a selected venue where two protests are taking place along the route. Higher level officers have to put into practice the command and control lessons they have received and must carefully plan and brief their operation. “We purposely create a scenario whereby some of the protestors are peaceful and some are aggressive and violent”, explained EU Trainer Gistelinck. This situation requires the MPF to carefully consider the crowd profile and differentiate between the different groups. “Already in a short  time we have seen the MPF engaging with the crowd in a much more positive manner whilst seeking alternative solutions to using force to resolve the issues”, Gistelinck said. In this particular scenario, police officers successfully communicated with women and children and achieved their safe departure from a potentially dangerous situation through negotiations.

“We highly value the openness and support of General Thura Bo Ni and his staff for the training. Without their commitment and genuine desire to transform the police into a modern service, the first implementation phase of the project would not have been so successful”, Ambassador Kobia said. “To build on this success we are foreseeing in the near future to also conduct the EU Crowd Management Training in locations outside of Yangon.”

“Police reform is a crucial step in Myanmar’s transition to a democratic society based on the rule of law”, the EU Ambassador pointed out. In addition to the Crowd Management Training, the EU project implements a pilot project for Community Policing in a township in Yangon, supports reforming the police doctrine and legal framework and works directly with representatives of Parliament to ensure better accountability of the police. The project also works with civil society organizations and the media to improve their relations and communication with the police. “We all know successful police reform takes time and is not achieved overnight. But with these four components we have started to work together so that all actors can contribute to develop a relationship that is built on mutual respect, trust and cooperation. Our common goal is to work towards full democratic control of a police that is truly at the service of the people of Myanmar.”

The EU programme will continue till March 2015 and is funded with up to 10 million Euro (around 13.2 billion MMK).

Media Contacts: Ms. Karin Deckenbach, karin.deckenbach@giz.de, tel. 09 250 424 385

Presented crowd management training techniques and scenarios:

  • Workstation “Sections and Pelotons Formation without shields“: The purpose is to move police units in a professional and organized way, to channel a crowd, slow down a group to avoid mass-compression, block street entrances, areas or buildings. The formations trained depend on the situation, the attitude of the crowd, the goal of the police, and should always contribute to the de-escalation of the situation and the security of the public.
  • Workstation “Sections and Pelotons Formation with shields“: The purpose is to train for tense situations when the police expects part of the demonstrators will throw stones or bottles. To insure that police officers do not get injured and to prevent overreaction of police officers fearing for their own safety, the police will have to use protective equipment (shields, helmets and shin protectors). The training emphasizes the use of these tactics only when facing a real threat and always according to the principals of de-escalation and gradual use of force.
  • Workstation “Protection techniques with shields under threat“: If all other techniques failed, the security situation is severely degraded and police officers are in imminent danger to get injured, they will have to handle the situation in a more reactive way. Training scenarios are as realistic as possible, to avoid injuries we use half empty water bottles. In one scenario for example an angry crowd throws water bottles at police officers and threatens to overrun a police post. This exercise is training certain defence automatisms and also strengthens the confidence in the protective equipment. It avoids overreaction by police officers and increases the level of tolerance to face danger.
  • Workstation “Removing, escorting and searching techniques“: The purpose is to train situations where the police is facing an uncooperative crowd, for example blocking entrances of buildings, streets or areas. The first response of the police is to negotiate with the demonstrators, trying to find a compromise. If negotiations, warnings and constant communication fail the police could be forced to clear the situation that is to remove demonstrators and maybe arrest offenders. The training delivers effective police techniques to ensure the police action implies minimal use of force, takes care that uncooperative demonstrators do not get badly injured and also ensures the security and safety of the police officers.
  • Scenario: To train the proper use of the techniques and tactics in order to ensure the respect of human rights, the gradual use of force and de-escalation, the trainees are confronted with “real life” scenarios. The trainees have to prepare their action, brief their forces and execute the scenario under supervision of the EU trainers. Each scenario is debriefed by the EU trainers to identify good points and  points for improvement. As an example we present the training for a common situation the MPF also had to face during the SEA Games: An excited crowd wanted to buy entrance tickets and, when they were sold out, some football fans got angry and turned their frustration against the police.

This post is in: Press Release

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