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 Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – With translation by Khant Lin Oo TOE WAI AUNG toe­wa­iaung@mm­ YEE MON yeemon­tun@mm­

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.

Photo: AFP

The US em­bassy caused alarm with a train­ing ex­er­cise on July 24.

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