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EU trains Myanmar's police force to better manage protests

The Myanmar government is looking to improve its police forces' ability to handle outbreaks of violence, such as those recently seen in Rakhine state.

YANGON: The Myanmar government is looking to improve its police forces' ability to handle outbreaks of violence, such as those recently seen in Rakhine state.

It has invited the European Union to share its experiences in managing protesters, while respecting their rights.

During a training scenario, police officers were given the task to handle an angry crowd without resorting to force.

Later, they did put into practice what they've learnt when they were called upon to handle a scuffle at a football match at the recent SEA Games in Yangon.

General Thuya Bo Ni, Commander of the Police Battalions, said: "Previously, in order to stop demonstrations, officers often resort to using force but now, they've changed their thinking and are learning how to start negotiating with the protesters first. We're learning the best international practices and by putting it to use, we're seeing positive results."

Myanmar has some 70,000 police officers.

The EU is only training 4,000 of them, but it's a start in helping the police force improve their efforts at maintaining law and order.

Mr Roland Kobia, EU ambassador, said: "There have always been problems and difficulties. So we don't have the illusion that there won't be any problems in the future. But it's trying to bring the police force into a modern police corps that respects human rights, that respects fundamental freedoms, and that's basically a police force that's there to protect the citizens of Myanmar and not to go against the people."

He believes that it's essential for the Myanmar police force to improve its practices, as the country undergoes a transition to a democratic society.

Each training session for these officers lasts for about two weeks.

The whole point is to help them change their mindsets in how they operate in Myanmar.

Examples of the lessons also include teaching them how to use less aggressive force on their citizens and how to better manage an aggressive crowd in the future.

The EU is funding the 18-month training programme in Yangon at a cost of some 10 million euros (US$13.8 million).

It hopes to expand this training to others in Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay soon. 

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