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ASEAN ANALYSIS  27  August 2010

Asean police, army units need training

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   27 August 2010

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The recent tourist bus standoff in Manila that resulted in the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists at Quirino Grandstand in Manila’s Rizal Park is another incident highlighting the lack of training and professionalism in several Asean armies and police forces.

Security experts such as British Army and Scotland Yard veteran, Charles Shoebridge, praised the officers for their courage but found numerous mistakes committed by the Philippine police and he noted their lack of training.

On a similar note, during the recent two-month-long red shirt protest in Bangkok the lack of training and professionalism in the police and army was often on display.

The protest site was originally centered at the Phan Fah Bridge in Bangkok, a site that was not in a central location. The protesters then moved to the exact center of Bangkok’s upscale shopping district with the best wishes of the army and police.

Apparently, the army’s top general, General Anupong Paochinda, did not want to go down in history for having bloodshed just before his regime ends this year. However, a few weeks later that was the case as he signed the order to have the army remove the entrenched protesters. As for the Royal Thai police, many were described as the watermelon police: wearing green uniforms but underneath sympathetic to the red shirt cause.

A government commission has been assigned to recommend police reforms to make it function properly. A similar attempt a couple of years back, brought spirited protests from a group of retired police generals.

One of the basic functions of modern governments is to enforce the laws and defend the country. Domestic terrorism has now added to that list of duties for the police and army. But before that turn, it was apparent that the police and soldiers in several Asean countries were simply poorly trained and underpaid.

For several Asean countries, the improvement of these important forces may be the next step toward the “first world” status these countries so earnestly desire.

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