18 June 2020
Category : Entrevista
Here we interview Julio Bueno, Police Inspector and expert in crowd management for the MYPOL project in Myanmar
The specialist talks to us about how the MYPOL project has worked together with the Myanmar National Police. MYPOL is a project managed by the FIIAPP and financed by the European Commission, which aims to modernise and improve the institutional capacity of the police forces in Myanmar, promoting gender equality and respect for human rights.
Could you explain what the MYPOL project consists of, its objectives and the part that Crowd Control plays in it?
The general objective of the project is to contribute to the modernisation of the Myanmar Police through a more preventive, balanced and professional approach, based on international best practice, with special attention to the respect for human rights. Specifically, it intends to contribute to an effective, efficient and responsible Police Service; one that is trusted by the different communities.
From the point of view of the Police’s operational functions, the project aims to support the development of a public service police model, including a special gender sensitivity, in three main areas: proximity police; investigation units, which we know in Spain as judicial police and scientific police; and finally crowd control, understood in a general sense, focused on public security.
Regarding crowd control in particular, the expected result of the project is literally “to strengthen the capacity of the Myanmar Police to handle different types of crowds in accordance with international human rights standards.” Here, the term “crowds” does not just refer to demonstrations or concentrations. The legal concept of a crowd in Myanmar is the gathering or coincidence of five or more people in any location. In this sense, we have fully adapted to the legislation and the situation in Myanmar to develop a programme that leads to fulfilment of the project objective.
What are the differences between Myanmar’s crowd management system and that of Spain?
There are many differences between the Myanmar and Spanish systems. To begin with, in Spain there are two national and several autonomous bodies that carry out these functions, in Myanmar there is a single police force that performs all of them. Spain shifted to a public service model more than twenty years ago. This process is now taking its first steps in Myanmar, based on a military model, led by military commanders. In general, in citizen security, the Myanmar Police is evolving to a public service model similar to the Spanish one, starting from a model based on surveillance and the occupation of key places.
As for the model of public order, or crowd control in the sense of control of demonstrations and concentrations, the Spanish model and that of Myanmar are very different. Spain adopted a flexible and mobile model that is common in Mediterranean countries. Myanmar originally followed a model inherited from the colonial administration, of British origin, and during the project prior to this, the British model was chosen again, with training from Belgian, British, German and Polish police officers.
For this project, one of the mandatory initial conditions was not to change the system chosen in the previous project. To improve it and create a solid, legal and operational foundation that is both efficient and long-lasting, I chose the UN standard system, taught by trainers who are UN-trained and qualified in these techniques and systems.
And what are the differences and similarities between the units that carry out crowd management in Spain and in Myanmar?
The first and main difference is the number of police corps there are. The Myanmar police carry out the functions carried out in Spain by the National Police, Civil Guard, regional police, local police, port police and the customs surveillance service. The Myanmar police is military in its origin and structure, many of its top officers come directly from military units, without specific police training.
The so-called security crowd control units have many more functions in Myanmar and have a similar structure, organised in districts and patrols. Another big difference is the available means, equipment, transportation, which are very scarce. Although some units are similar in structure and functions, the training is very different, especially in the lower echelons, where they are much better prepared in Spain, with more specific and longer training.
Regarding gender equality in the organisation, the case of Myanmar is very unusual when compared to that of Spain. In Spain there are no restrictions on women’s access to any position and services and there are also active policies to promote integration. In Myanmar, female presence in the organisation is similar to that of Spain, around 13%, but they do not have access to special public order units. However, in the special police unit, with which we also work, female presence is high and very active, without restrictions, while in Spain and other western countries it is very low or does not exist. Despite the differences, difficulties and a certain resistance to change, the general trend is towards full future integration.
What are the challenges of carrying out this type of reinforcement in a place like Myanmar?
Myanmar is a country that has been isolated from the world for many years, with a culture and values which are very different and are deeply-rooted. The biggest challenge has been winning the trust of the institutions and gradually showing the benefits of the new models and systems. Difficulties in communication, from a cultural and organisational point of view, have always been present.
Exclusively from the police point of view, the strong hierarchical structure and the need to follow a rigid chain of command for any initiative have been a challenge and a difficulty from day one, but I think the project has managed to adapt, like all of its staff, and overcome these difficulties as much as possible.
And what are the main challenges the country faces in order to consolidate a reform of the Myanmar police?
There are all kinds of problems and difficulties in carrying out and consolidating a police reform. We must bear in mind that the country is in the middle of a debate regarding its own nature, with federalist proposals that could completely change the scenario. The armed forces, which control the Interior Ministry and a quarter of the parliament, are an essential actor in any process.
In addition to these political problems we have the presence of numerous terrorist and criminal groups in the peripheral regions: very powerful organised crime, among others. In relation to gender equality, there is still a long way to go to achieve the full integration of women in all units and levels of the structure, without restrictions. How these problems are solved will shape the administration model, and therefore the resulting police model.
What does international cooperation contribute to the project in terms of security?
The main benefit of international cooperation is to share the experience of people from different parts of the world, who in turn have extensive experience in missions and projects, which provides a global vision of the problems, and over time, a similar approach to such circumstances. International cooperation spreads internationally accepted values and techniques, which therefore have the support of international institutions and the support of members of the international community.
In terms of security, international cooperation ensures the implementation of these standards, such as international best practices and respect for human rights, giving international support to countries that have decided to undertake reforms in this regard, and that have also decided to accept help from international organisations or institutions to carry out such reforms.
For matters related to security, asking for international cooperation is a very useful instrument for countries that want to carry out reforms, but have internal resistance or other problems, such as cultural or economic, that make them difficult to implement.
What are the exchanges like between the Spanish and Myanmar Public Administrations within the framework of this project?
The Spanish Public Administrations have supported this project from the outset, in the first placeby assigning two members of the National Police Corps as Project Team Leaders, in successive assignments, and a main expert for the crowd control component that has been the same from the beginning of the project.
The National Police Corps has in several occasions sent another six members of the corps on assignment for some of the activities that have been carried out, most of these with extensive international experience in UN and EU missions. Institutional support has been essential for the proper development of the activities that have been carried out so far.
How can the citizens of Myanmar benefit from this project?
Citizens are the main customers of the police service. Shifting the orientation of the police function towards public service, and the fact that it is based on better international standards and respect for human rights, represent a clear benefit for any society.
In the particular case of Myanmar, a clear change has been seen in the way in which many conflicts are resolved, with a very significant reduction in the use of violence and an increase in police dialogue with social actors. This is something completely new in Myanmar, for which MYPOL and the previous project are largely responsible. Our work has driven change at many levels, from individual behaviour, to unit structure, to the creation of new units.
A good example of this is the Maritime Police, which has enthusiastically participated in various activities, supporting the project at all times. According to their manager, the mere fact of carrying out visible training activities in the port of Yangon has considerably reduced crime in the area, including robberies and contraband, among others.
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