18 June 2020
Posteado en : 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.
22 December 2017
Posteado en : Entrevista
“This is the furthest away I've been and my biggest professional challenge to date”
For this edition we go to Myanmar to meet Azucena Martínez and learn about how the MYPOL project is going, which is concerned with reforming the country’s police force. The project is financed by the European Commission and managed by FIIAPP. Azucena, project coordinator, takes this opportunity to share her experience of the country with us.
How have you adapted to this country?
When I first arrived in Myanmar nearly a year ago now I thought the adaptation process would be complex given that culturally the country is so different from Spain, Europe and Latin America. However, Burmese people are particularly welcoming, generous and decent. As a foreigner here in Myanmar I have never felt unsafe; people in the street are willing to help you out without expecting anything in return.
The language here is the main barrier. Even though Myanmar is an ex-British colony, English is not that widespread among the local population. This can lead to some pretty amusing situations when trying to deal with taxi drivers or when shopping, etc. Anyhow, I hope that my Burmese classes help to remedy these “little” communication problems.
What was most difficult for you and what was least difficult?
The fact is nothing has been particularly easy, but if I had to mention something, perhaps it would be the relative ease with which I managed to find a place to live. So far, I have lived both in the administrative capital, Naypyidaw, as well as in the former capital and commercial centre of the country, Yangon. Finding a place to live can be quite a problem in both places. Sometimes the cost of renting an apartment here can match that of Manhattan. As unbelievable as it might seem!
What you find most difficult is being away from home, missing your own circle: your family, friends, your reliable, local shopkeeper, etc. But in the end, it all comes down to returning home now and again to recharge and making the most of the opportunities the country offers where you are posted which, in this case, are many.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
No, I’ve lived abroad before. But this is the furthest away I’ve been. Moreover, the experience is, for me, the biggest professional challenge to date, both in terms of the scope of the project and the situation the country is undergoing.
Tell us about your job and your daily routine
I’m now working at the MYPOL project office in Yangon. There are 15 of us in all, five of whom are expatriates from different EU countries, while the rest of the staff is made of up locally hired personnel for the project. We also have another six people in Naypyidaw. Consequently, a major part of my work involves coordination tasks. On the one hand, those of my office, and on the other, liaising between both teams.
From the Naypyidaw office, we are in touch with the main beneficiary institution and stakeholder: the Myanmar Police. At the same time, other activities, such as training, seminars and monitoring meetings are carried out in Yangon with the project funder: the EU Delegation in Myanmar. There’s never enough time to get around to everything that is required by a project of these characteristics.
What is your relationship with headquarters in Madrid?
My relationship with the office could not be better. It is a key element for my work: being able to be in touch practically in real time, bearing in mind the five-and-a-half hour time difference, with the team at headquarters is extremely important. Despite the distance and difficulties, there is never any lack of willingness, professional commitment, or working hours for everything to go forward.
What about your colleagues in Myanmar?
I have a very close relationship with both my fellow expats and the Burmese members of the team. We have come from very diverse professional backgrounds (police, journalists, sociologists, interpreters, political scientists, etc.) and from different organisations, countries and work methods, which makes the whole experience that much more enriching.
How would you evaluate your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate in Myanmar?
The experience is turning out to be very positive. I won’t deny the fact that it’s always quite complicated at the start: laying the foundations to work with the local authorities, establishing work networks with other organisations that also collaborate in the reform process, setting up a human structure and basic logistics to operate in the country. All of the foregoing constitutes most of the work done this year and reflects a lot of challenges, while at the same time affording you great satisfaction when you think there was nothing before we came and all we have accomplished is due to hard work.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in the country?
Names in general are a tricky business. My name is Azucena, which of itself is complicated outside Spain. Here it fails to identify you as a male or female. Pronunciation wise it is quite difficult, but I have the same problem with their names. There are no surnames as such in Myanmar, nor is their a homogeneous name to call a person: it can be one, two, three, five, or more names that refer to different things: ranging from their ancestors or the day on which they were born to their ethnic group.
It is a real adventure learning how you ought to call a person here. And that’s not all, there are a lot of names that recur quite often. Indeed, there are a lot of people who, knowing this difficulty foreigners have, opt to use a nickname or simply indicate which of these different words that make up their name you can use as their “main name”.