(Editorial) - After the ‘Peaceful Assembly and Procession Act’ was enacted in December 2011, numerous protests on wide ranging issues have taken place in both rural and urban Myanmar.
Demonstrations have been staged to protest against government projects, land seized from farmers, power outages, etc. Through the protests the people demanded the union government and local authorities to address and resolve daily hardships they face.
In protest against the Letpadaung copper mine project alone, 124 demonstrations were staged in a short span of 8 months, from March to November 2012. There has been numerous protest against the project thereafter and continues till date.
During a police crack down on one of the demonstrations against the Letpadaung copper mine project, 108 civilians including 99 monks sustained injuries. Use of excessive force by the police during such crack downs evokes pertinent questions on their management capabilities and conflict resolution competency.
On the issue of police using smoke bombs to control demonstrators, the Letpadaung Inquiry Commission report states, “Since the police force is not experienced in the use of smoke bombs for crowd control procedures, they could not assess and foresee the nature, complications and effectiveness of the dangerous weapon.”
This is perhaps the best example of the police using excessive force and misusing their authority.
Besides these protest against government projects, policies and administration, the country has witnessed unfortunate riots and sectarian violence. The competency of the police force to deal with such riots effectively is questionable.
The communal tension and sectarian violence in Rakhine State spread to Meiktila, Lashio, and Kantbalu. Many religious buildings, shops, and houses have been set on fire and destroyed by unruly mobs. It is the duty of the police force to take up preventive measures against such arson riots, in order to prevent its re-occurrence in the future.
Immediate preventive measures is the need of the hour, otherwise there is a possibility of more riots, deaths and loss of property. It will also lead people to doubt the competency of the police to fulfill their primary mission of maintaining law and order.
The police force should bear the responsibility to deter and control communal tensions and sectarian violence without further delay. They should protect and secure the people from such riots from breaking out and control it from spreading to more regions in the country.