Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) in Burma


Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) in Burma
   Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) have been deeply involved in Burma since the State Law and Order Restoration Council seized power in 1988. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other well-known INGOs began drawing world attention to the new regime's human rights abuses, and new NGOs were established by Burmese exiles and their overseas supporters, including the Free Burma Coalition, the Burma Project of the Soros Foundation, ALTSEAN Burma, the Karen Human Rights Group, and the Shan Human Rights Foundation. Based in neighboring countries, such as Thailand, Western countries, or Japan, these groups have been successful in using information technology, such as the Internet, to increase awareness of a country that previously was largely ignored by the international community. Some of them have also played a role in getting Western governments to enact sanctions against the military regime. Such NGOs as the Burmese Relief Centre and the Burma Border Consortium assist Burmese refugees in Thailand.
   Other NGOs or INGOs have operated inside the country since the early 1990s, providing assistance in public health, family planning, and community development. Narcotics and the AIDS epidemic have been special areas of concern. Such groups include Médecins sans Frontières-Holland, Médecins du Monde, CARE Myanmar, World Vision Myanmar, Save the Children Fund (United Kingdom and United States), Population Services International, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. NGOs are required to sign a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a government agency, usually the Ministry of Health, and are expected to work closely with local Peace and Development Councils, the Union Solidarity and Development Association, and GONGOS (government-organized nongovernmental organizations), such as the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association, Myanmar Medical Association, and Myanmar Anti-Narcotic Association. They also must avoid involvement of any kind that the State Peace and Development Council regards as "political," including contacts with the National League for Democracy (NLD).
   After her release from house arrest in 1995, Aung San Suu Kyi asked that NGOs working in Burma consult with the NLD, a condition that, given the restrictions imposed by the regime, is impossible for them to satisfy; in a 1998 interview, she said that NGOs should not work inside Burma at all, but rather focus their resources on helping refugees in neighboring countries. The controversy over the legitimacy of NGO/INGO work inside Burma focuses on two issues: whether the aid given by these groups benefits the SPDC regime more than the people, and whether people in local communities can be meaningfully helped as long as the military-dominated power structure remains unchanged.
   See also United Nations in Burma.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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