The Burma Police Force are issuing stun batons to more than 1,000 of traffic officers in Rangoon, Mandalay and Sagaing following the fatal stabbing of a policeman on 24 September.
Mandalay Police Lance Corporal Kyaw Zin Oo was stabbed by the brother of a motorcyclist to whom he had recently issued a fine for unlicensed driving. He was pronounced dead shortly after being transferred to the nearby hospital.
The following day police issued an authorisation for all traffic officers in major cities to be equipped with stun batons.
Thant Zaw Min, an officer in Mandalay, told DVB the authorisation was to ensure officers could defend themselves from threatening behaviour.
“We have been authorised to carry the stun batons so that we can protect ourselves on specific occasions when we are met with life-threatening behaviour from drivers. Our job is to enforce traffic regulations, and we are not to beat, prod or poke drivers with these batons. It’s not like we would see someone breaking traffic regulations and say, ‘Let us beat them with this stick!’ No traffic police member will do that. These are only to be used to protect ourselves in life threatening situations. We had to sign an acknowledgement agreeing to these regulations,” he said.
Responding to the public’s negative reaction to the decision, and growing distrust of traffic police, Thant Zaw Min assured road users that their first priority was keeping the public safe.
“They are allowed to despise us and so be it, I won’t stop them. But we have traffic regulations to ensure safety on the road and I would like to tell them not to hate these regulations. The regulations are to ensure safety, and our job is to enforce these regulations.
“There may be some police officers who display rude behaviour to the drivers when doing their job, and our supervisors will not let that slide. If they [police supervisors] see misconduct by members of the police force, they will seek to reprimand him or her immediately. They are not ignoring these things. I wouldn’t want the public to hold such negative views based on what they see on Facebook,” Thant Zaw Min said.
Prior to the deadly stabbing, stun batons were only issued to female traffic officers.