US snafu sparks alarm
The US embassy in Yangon apologised after a training program ended with emergency personnel and an ambulance called when a tear gas test led to fumes on University Avenue.
THE American embassy in Yangon apologised yesterday after a tear gas test gone awry led to erroneous reports of a bombing and temporarily affected the flow of traffic along University Avenue, where the mission is located.
Tear gas fumes emerged from the embassy compound in Kamaryut township at about 8:20pm on July 24, with some passers-by complaining of eye irritation as a result, according to police. Three senior Yangon police officials were dispatched to the scene to investigate the situation and emergency responders were called in, including firefighters and ambulances.
The US embassy yesterday said a “routine security drill” in its compound had “inadvertently inconvenienced passers-by and a neighbouring business”.
Embassy security officer Laughn P Rowe said it was the first and would be the last time tear gas was able to spill out onto University Avenue, a busy thoroughfare just south of Inya Lake that is also the address of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s home.
Daw Aye Aye Soe, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the embassy had failed to inform the relevant authorities of the security drill and that the US mission was instructed that it must provide advance notice in the future.
“It can affect the two countries’ relationship. We told them not to conduct routine security drills with real weapons next time. They also told us they have no intention to do that. We won’t sanction them, we are just informing [the embassy] not to do that again,” she said, while acknowledging that the US embassy has a right to conduct such drills within its compound in line with diplomatic standards.
“They can hold a security drill but they need to inform the authorities first,” she said. “They must inform the authorities because precautions must be taken for their security.”
Mr Rowe, the embassy security official, pledged to notify relevant police officials ahead of any future security drills involving tear gas.
“No one was injured and embassy operations are running as normal. We apologise to our neighbours and others who were in the area,” the US embassy said in its statement.
The US embassy caused alarm with a training exercise on July 24.