Politics have found a place on the agendas of Burma's civil society organizations (CSO) since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, according to leading members of the movement.
“Before Suu Kyi's release the CSO only focused on social work but now members discuss politics,” said Myo Yan Naung Thein, a trainer for CSO capacity building. “They are a bridge between government and public.”
Mya Nandar, a member of the New Myanmar foundation, confirmed that her CSO wanted to be involved in politics as well as perform social work. “But we have to mind our step.”
Mya Nandar said she chose to be a social worker at the time of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
The community-based organizations were formed to rush aid to the surviving victims of the cyclone, which killed more than 140,000 people and left hundreds of thousands destitute and homeless.
Myo Yan Naung Thein said CSO were a force for democracy because they were in touch with the common people and could tackle social work that INGOs couldn't perform.
Young people aged between 18 and 40 are involved in education, health, environment and humanitarian work for at least 150 CSO based in Rangoon. Some groups have as many as 1,000 members.
They are financed with grants from international nongovernmental agencies (INGOs), foreign embassies, donations from friends and family members working abroad and fund-raising events.
Phyi Sone Htet, a members of the “Green one,” said Suu Kyi's support had “invigorated” his CSO in its environmental work.
“Green one” organizes weekly discussion sessions, which Phyi Sone Htet said were carefully monitored by the authorities.
NLD central executive committee member Ohn Kyaing said Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet shortly with CSO leaders and members.
“We have to do our work based on understanding with the authorities and if somebody like Suu Kyi stands with us it is helpful for our work,” said Thint Zaw Than, a member of a CSO that focuses on education.
Burma reportedly has 64 non-governmental organizations and 455 officially recognized community-based associations. But there are many more CSOs in the country not registered who are working to engage the social work.