Statement on International Assistance to Burma

July 20, 2002

We, individuals from Burma, who have been actively involved in the struggle for democracy and self-determination of ethnic nationalities and who have been working in the development fields of women’s rights, health, education and environment for and with the people at the grassroots level, met on July 13-14th 2002 to discuss the role of international aid in Burma. The following issues and concerns were raised at this meeting.

During the past year, UN agencies and INGO's, together with some governments particularly Japan and Australia, have been calling for large scale increases of international aid to Burma to respond to the ongoing humanitarian dilemma in the country.

A report published in April 2002 by the International Crisis Group states that "the human costs of social deprivation in Myanmar (Burma) are simply too large to be ignored until some indefinite democratic future, which could be years or even decades away...There should be more international assistance in Myanmar, more resources, more agencies and more programs..."

We are concerned that the root causes of the humanitarian dilemma have been ignored in such analyses resulting in an obscured representation of the situation and responses. The ICG report called into question the role for the Burmese opposition in the international aid debate by stating that even Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party "simply does not have the capacity to make professional judgements on priorities or methodology" on international assistance. However, in May 1999, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stated that the underlying cause of the political, social and economic hardships Burmese people are facing is the lack of good governance in Burma.

Moreover, at a Strategic Consultation Meeting held on 20 January 2002, all leaders of the ethnic nationalities, the democracy movement and women leaders of Burma have agreed that: "The root causes of the humanitarian crisis in Burma are: the lack of a democratic government accountable to the people and the military's focus on power instead of promoting the interest of the people".

We, individuals from the democracy, women, health, education and environment grassroots movements, fully support the analysis that the root cause of the ongoing humanitarian dilemma is the system of military dictatorship.

In addition, we are concerned that international aid delivered through Rangoon in this present environment will:

  • Increase military strength and weaken democracy and human rights activities.
  • Prolong the life of a structure that systematically violates basic human rights and damages the environment.
  • Condone the current denial of the rights of ethnic nationalities.
  • Delay the start of a tripartite dialogue process and the transition to democracy.
  • Potentially reduce attention to both internally displaced persons and refugees.
  • Cause further division among the people of Burma by allowing the regime to dictate to which areas assistance can be delivered.
  • Create divisions between democracy activists and their communities by diverting attention away from the root causes of the ongoing humanitarian dilemma.
  • Create divisions among the people of Burma by fostering false beliefs that international aid can be de-politicized.
  • Strengthen GONGOS which are organizations under the control of the military government.
  • Foster aid dependency among the people and reduce self-reliance.
  • Provide the opportunity for the military regime to use international NGOs as shields to mask their human rights violations.
  • Create an environment whereby increased foreign investment can take place under the current system of military rule.
  • Indirectly subsidize the military regime which will allow it to increase its military expenditures.
  • Strengthen the military regime which in turn is prolonging the civil war.
  • Will not reach the real needy people in the remote areas, internally displaced people and refugees along the borders

Therefore, we call on the international community to respect the above concerns and engage Burman and non-Burman democratic groups and civil society organisations in a transparent and constructive debate before taking any decisions on increasing international aid to Burma to respond to the military made humanitarian crisis.

We demand a role for all people of Burma, including the democratic opposition, in any international assistance delivered to our country.

Signed by individuals concerned for Burma’s development:

  1. Cynthia Maung (Dr.)
  2. Nang Hseng Noung
  3. Naw Zipporah Sein
  4. Shirley Seng
  5. Ma Hnoung
  6. Nang Charm Tong
  7. Shwe Myo Thant
  8. Khu The Bu
  9. Thein Lwin (Dr.)
  10. Tommy Lay Taw
  11. Aung Moe Zaw
  12. Aung Naing
  13. Saw Htoo Klei
  14. Saw Ywa Hay
  15. Nai Banya Mon
  16. Nai Kasauh Mon
  17. Win Nai Oo
  18. Japhet
  19. Aung Wa
  20. Salai Yaw Aung
  21. Mahn Mahn
  22. U Than Htut
  23. Tay Tay
  24. Khin Saw Win (Dr.)

Date last changed: 2007 September 25

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