Thursday, December 16, 2010
By HTET AUNG
Some Burmese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have complained to a United Nations envoy that their work has been hampered by the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her active involvement in social issues.
The complaints were voiced in a meeting between Vijay Nambiar, the UN secretary-general's special envoy to Burma, and representatives of local NGOs during his two-day visit to Burma. Unofficial notes on the meetings, obtained by The Irrawaddy, reported that the potential for opening up the country's civil society groups to address the country's social issues in the post-election period had been discussed.
Among those who met Nambiar were Nay Win Maung, of Myanmar Egress; Khin Maung Yin and Dr Myo Lwin of the Pyo Pin Program; Thiha Kyaing of the Phoenix Association (Myanmar); Myint Su from the Local Resource Center; and officials from the Metta Foundation and the International Development Enterprise.
The notes on the meeting said Nay Win Maung and Khin Maung Yin told the UN envoy it had become more difficult to carry out their social works after Suu Kyi's release because of what they perceived as her hardline political stand. Her call for a second Panglong conference, for example, was “dangerous,” they said.
However, the notes didn't elaborate precisely on how the NGOs felt Suu Kyi's political stand could hamper their social works. The Irrawaddy tried to contact Nay Win Maung to obtain further elaboration but couldn't reach him.
Nay Win Maung is one of the founders of Myanmar Egress, which actively promoted the Nov. 7 election through voter education programs. He also owns the local weekly journal The Voice. Khin Maung Yin is a leader of the Pyo Pin Program, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development via the British Embassy in Rangoon.
“They don't view the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi positively,” said Thiha Kyaing. “They said they could do their social works better before Daw Suu was freed and that after her release the political situation became shaky. It was difficult for them to operate their works.”
Thiha Kyaing said he didn't share these views. “Most of the people who met the special envoy are not really working at the grassroots level and they spoke mostly about policy issues, neither truly representing nor knowing the real situation of the community.”
Phoenix Association is a non-profit social organization and its members are people living with HIV/AIDS. The organization was established in 2005 with the objective of supporting HIV/AIDS patients facing social and economic problems.
Thiha Kyaing said the Phoenix Association had not experienced greater difficulty in carrying out its social work since Suu Kyi's release, which the organization viewed positively.
“In fact, Daw Suu's influence can even be used to raise funds for our work.” he said. “People in the communities that I am working with strongly support Daw Suu.”
In the unofficial meeting notes, Nay Win Maung and Khin Maung Yin said Suu Kyi needs to update her knowledge of the changes that occurred during her house arrest.
They complained they hadn't had a chance to meet Suu Kyi—although Thein Oo, the National League for Democracy (NLD) official responsible for arranging all meetings with Suu Kyi, told The Irrawaddy: “There has so far been no request from Egress to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Ohn Kyaing, the NLD central executive committee member responsible for contacts with other local organizations, dismissed the Egress and Pyo Pin Program complaints as “baseless.” He said: “Since her release, she has already made clear that she is willing to cooperate with all parties.”
Following her release last month, Suu Kyi has advocated a strengthening of the civil society organizations. In a video speech sent to the recent EU Development Forum, she called for more investment in the development of civil society organizations, adding that it must be “accountable and transparent.”