September 16, 2020.

Myanmar’s challenges regularly make headlines. The efforts to reform the Myanmar Police Force remains a hopeful step forward in the transformation of the country’s security. The 2008 Constitution states that the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services is the chief of all the armed organizations, and, as a result, the Myanmar Police Force remains under the Home Affairs Ministry, led by a military-appointed minister. Along with the democratic reforms since 2011, the force has moved towards a more decentralized, more gender and ethnic sensitive institution, still struggling to focus on control vs service-orientation. Currently, the police in Myanmar are severely overstretched to meet their mandate. Laws, regulation, strategies and training are outdated; facilities and equipment are old and often in poor condition by Southeast Asian and global standards. More disturbingly, the police are not present in some parts of the country where crime and related public security issues are most challenging. The police are facing increasingly sophisticated ethnic armed groups as well as transnational organized crime involved in drugs and human trafficking. The recent MIPS 2020 Annual Review on Peace and Security has highlighted some of these severe security challenges.

The talk by Dr. Min Zaw Oo, executive director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security, argues that the decentralization of the police sector to foster federated units will require significant enhancing capacity of the state government, and improving service delivery is an essential step for effective decentralization. The findings draw from a survey, focus group discussions, and in-depth key informant interviews undertaken in Chin, Kayin, Kachin and Magway under the Knowledge for Democracy Myanmar (K4DM) Initiative, a partnership of International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Global Affairs Canada.

A commentary by Prof. Mala Htun from U of New Mexico follows the presentation