Burma’s parliament has agreed to borrow 246 million yuan (US$40 million) from China in order to purchase vehicles and equipment for the country’s police force.
MPs on Wednesday approved the loan from the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of China, as proposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, with 397 votes in favour, 51 votes against, and 13 abstentions.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Brig-Gen Kyaw Zan Myint told parliament that the expansion of the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) will protect civilian lives, and maintain tranquillity and the rule of law, and that greater human resources, vehicles and equipment are needed.
The minister said that the MPF currently has just 2,945 vehicles nationwide, and that a portion of the loan will be spent obtaining police vehicles and watercrafts via a tender system.
Voices of objection were heard from Myint Oo and Khin San Hlaing of the National League for Democracy (NLD), from Thanatpin constituency in Pegu, and Khin San Hlaing of Pale constituency in Sagaing, respectively, and the National Democratic Force party’s Khine Maung Yee from Rangoon’s Ahlone constituency.
In the parliamentary debate, Khin San Hlaing said careful consideration is needed before increasing Burma’s burden of debt, while Khin Maung Yee highlighted that international loans in the interests of the public should be prioritised above those that could be harmful.
The terms of the loan agreement include a 15-year repayment period, with a five-year deferment window, and a 4.5 percent interest rate. Some MPs have voiced their concern that the interest rate is too high.
For the past 18 months, the MPF has received crowd control training and equipment from EU police. The head of the EU’s delegation to Burma, Roland Kobia, said at the time that the training would educate police officers on transparency and public communication, human rights and crime prevention, along with international good practice standards.
It was initiated out in response to a request from President Thein Sein, based on a recommendation by the Latpadaung Investigation Commission, headed by the NLD’s Aung San Suu Kyi, which was tasked with investigating a botched crackdown on peaceful anti-mine protestors in November 2012.
China’s EXIM Bank is a frequent lender to neighbouring Burma, whose emerging economy and increasing investment in infrastructure makes it ripe for large loans; the money in the past has been used to finance roads and railways. On 25 February, the Union Parliament approved a proposed US$330 million from EXIM for the Ministry of Cooperatives for a micro-financing project.