Burma Campaign UK today welcomed news that the European Union has finally suspended its controversial ‘Mypol’ training programme, training and equipping the Myanmar Police Force. The police force took part in the genocide of the Rohingya and has helped implement the new military coup.
Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a body which comes under the Northern Ireland Executive devolved government, confirmed the news in an email to Burma Campaign UK. NI-CO was one of the implementing partners paid by the EU to carry out the training programme.
Tens of millions of euros of EU aid money has been spent on the Mypol police training project, at the same time as victims of human rights violations by the Burmese military were left in internal displacement camps, living in squalid conditions without adequate food, shelter, medical care, clothing and education for children.
The Mypol training programme was initiated by the EU following violence against the ethnic Rohingya minority in 2012. Unwilling to accept that the military reform process which the EU had embraced was flawed, the EU refused to acknowledge the role of Thein Sein’s military backed government and the military in violence against the Rohingya. Instead they framed it as being communal violence unleashed as a result of the lifting of repressive rule. The EU argued that the problem was lack of police training in dealing with the violence, and the Mypol programme was established.
No preconditions on human rights were set before the training began, and the EU appeared unconcerned that the police force was under the control of the military and not the civilian government.
When Burma Campaign UK wrote to European Commission officials, and hundreds of Burma Campaign UK supporters wrote to the EU Commission, expressing concerns, EU officials did not bother to respond.
The EU did not express any concern regarding the role of the military controlled police force they were supporting being involved in the suppression of peaceful protests, arrests of human rights activists, or their role in framing and arresting two Reuters journalist for exposing a massacre of Rohingya villagers.
Even when the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar documented the role of the Myanmar Police Force in the genocide of the Rohingya, the EU carried on training and equipping the police force regardless.
According to information received by Burma Campaign UK, using the Freedom of Information Act in the UK, Mypol did not conduct any internal investigation into the role of the police force it was supporting in the genocide of the Rohingya. Nor did Mypol directly raise any concerns with the Myanmar Police Force regarding its role in the genocide of the Rohingya.
When Burma Campaign UK asked for evaluation and monitoring reports on the effectiveness of the Mypol programme, NI-CO refused to disclose them, despite the programme being funded by EU taxpayers. NI-CO claimed EU taxpayers had no right to see evaluations so they can see whether their money was being spent effectively.
The EU has not made any official statement about why it has suspended the Mypol police training programme. It has not stated why it considers training a police force involved in genocide is acceptable, but training a police force involved in a coup is not.
Given that the Myanmar Police Force has been under the control of the military for the entire time of the Mypol programme, there has been no change in control of the Myanmar Police Force since the coup.
The decision to suspend Mypol by the EU will reinforce the perception by many ethnic human rights activists that the EU and the rest of the international community is willing to tolerate the most serious international crimes by the military against ethnic minorities, but when the military commit human rights violations against people in central Burma or against Aung San Suu Kyi, they are more likely to take action.
The only sanction the EU implemented against the military following genocide of the Rohingya was to stop a handful of lower level military personnel from holidaying in EU member states. The EU refused to sanction Min Aung Hlaing, refused to support referring Burma to the International Criminal Court and refused to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, despite boasting of its role in helping to establish the Mission.
The EU took no action at all in response to war crimes and crimes against humanity against other ethnic groups in Burma.
Many EU companies are linked to the Burmese military via military companies. The EU has refused to implement sanctions to stop EU companies working for and with military companies, helping the military to make profits which fund genocide and military coups.
Burma Campaign UK is calling on the EU to sanction military companies and implement all of the recommendations of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
We are also calling on the EU not to proceed with its threat to withdraw Everything But Arms trade privileges. It is ridiculous that the EU is considering broad trade sanctions which would mainly impact ordinary people while at the same time refusing to implement sanctions that would impact the military.