Burma Betrayed?
Tuesday, October 19, 2010


In 1947, when Burma’s independence leader Aung San was in London to negotiate the end of British colonial rule over his country, Winston Churchill expressed indignation in Parliament at the sight of this “traitor rebel leader … marching up the steps of Buckingham Palace as the plenipotentiary of the Burmese Government.”

Aung San was, he said, a quisling who had aided the fascist Japanese Imperial Army in its invasion of British Burma, much as Norway’s wartime president Vidkun Quisling had facilitated the Nazi occupation of his country. The fact that Aung San later joined the Allies in their efforts to rid Burma of the Japanese did not, apparently, make his earlier collaboration with the enemy any less distasteful to Churchill, who described the later alliance as “not a very agreeable transaction.”

What Churchill failed to recognize, of course, was that Aung San never fought for the Japanese or for the British. The object of his struggle was always and only the liberation of Burma—a struggle that continues to this day.

Now, as in the days of Aung San, Burmese who seek to restore their country’s freedom and dignity must do so largely with the assistance of foreign supporters whose agendas are not always identical to their own. Fortunately, however, in our own time, this support comes chiefly from those with whom we share a set of universal values, based upon our common belief in democracy and human rights, rather than from imperialistic powers intent upon using Burma for their own ends.

That does not mean that our relations with our friends have always been easy, however.

Last week, for instance, The Irrawaddy was obliged to publish an open letter to the Danish Embassy in Bangkok to address several inaccuracies and unfounded accusations about our operations that had appeared in an e-mail sent to a number of other embassies in Thailand a week before our annual donors’ meeting on Oct. 1.

Apart from the factual errors contained in this e-mail, we were disturbed by the fact that it had been circulated without our knowledge, leaving us unable to defend ourselves against these charges until a more sympathetic supporter informed us of its existence. By this time, however, it had already reached pro-regime websites, providing a propaganda windfall to a junta that is already preparing to declare a final victory over the forces of democratic change in Burma after next month’s election.

The Danish Embassy is, of course, perfectly entitled to withdraw its support for our organization when and as it sees fit. However, the manner in which it chose to bring our relationship to an end, after providing a very generous sum of US $200,000 over a period of three years, suggests that there is something more at work here than just misgivings about the way The Irrawaddy is using Danish taxpayers’ money.

At this stage, it would be tempting to simply remain silent on this matter, to avoid incurring any further acrimony from a former donor that has already demonstrated an almost inexplicable ill will toward us. However, it has come to our attention that we are not alone in finding ourselves suddenly condemned for failing to live up to the Danish Embassy’s expectations.

We have thus decided that, in the interests of our community, which continues to face challenges unimaginable in countries that already enjoy the full benefits of democracy, we should speak out against what appears to be an undeclared war to undermine Burmese resistance to military rule.

The first signs of trouble emerged last January, when the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet published a report alleging that two Burmese groups based in Thailand, the National Health and Education Committee (NHEC) and the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), had engaged in illegal activities that disqualified them from receiving further support from Denmark.

The nature of the charges against the two groups betrayed a complete ignorance of the realities facing Burmese organizations operating in countries such as Thailand, where their very presence is often deemed illegal. The groups were even taken to task for setting up telephone numbers inside Burma without first getting the approval of the Burmese authorities—something that would entirely defeat the purpose of establishing contact with inside sources of information.

It should come as no surprise that the Danish newspaper report appeared to be utterly uninformed about the actual situation of Burmese exiles in Thailand: According to the Danish Burma Committee, a nongovernmental organization, it was based upon two audit reports written by a Thai national with little understanding of the status of the groups being audited.

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Tom Tun Wrote:
Danish spreading these financial secrets of Irrawaddy should makes Irrawaddy to rethink where was Irrawaddy started. Danish support is another story, does Irrawaddy get support from Burmese people who are living abroad?

Irrawaddy should think about dark side of the organization financial support. Most organizations good reputations are destroyed by financial mistake or the cost and delivery of products. Is Irrawaddy is a business organization or a journal or the leading light of Burma democracy? Redefine clearly on those subjects, I can see the successful future of Irrawaddy. I will personally wait and see which way Irrawaddy will turn. Wishing you best. Good luck.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Fela Kuti?What a name!Is that Burmese?

"Count on you, MP, to come to the defense of the SPDC, which has done more than its share of selling out to the Chinese."

WHAT NONSENSE! Burma has to trade to pay for foreign imports. If the West wanted to trade with Burma, they would not be prevented. In any case, without China's loan of $2billion in 1988, Burma would have plunged into utter and complete chaos leading to multifacted internecine civil wars. HOW PATHETIC AND UNEDUCATED not to understand a simple fact of human nature.

WE are We. MANY SILENT PEOPLE TOTALLY AGREE WITH OUR PRINCIPLES. Silent people include many readers who just read the messages without posting any to rubbish SPDC and USDP.
Face up the fact that we are not pro SPDC in every respect; we give constructive criticism to anyone INCLUDING IRRAWADDY. WE appreciate SPDC's efforts to maintain the state of Burma sovereign - despite 'republic'. Our sovereignty is unalienable right.

Protect with all our might! CONTROL JEALOUSY. Be humble!

Esben Arndt Wrote:
There is no doubt that a Government can and should choose how they spent tax payers money. And the issue about the Danish Embassy has only little do to with that point.

It's fine that Denmark choose to do otherwise but its not ok to try to influence other sponsors with an unfounded email actually stating many untrue "facts". Not only Denmark but the entire EU has changed their agenda the past few years now cutting direct border support and claiming the money is now better spent by the UN presently located in Rangoon. Its a very hopeless approach as no aid ending in Rangoon will ever reach people at the border areas.

The EU has large investments in Burma such as petrochemical and technology investments. As so often experienced in the past the old saying - Money talks and B...... walks has proven to be the western worlds foreign policy. The junta must be very pleased with this story as it can be seen on their own website.

Moe Aung Wrote:
Myanmar Patriots

"We will simply stop contributing to your messageboard leaving you with most puerile messages."

Heaven forbid! We'd all be left with no hilarious entertainment. Please don't cross this megalomaniac, or our lives would be so much poorer.

Peter Ole Kvint Wrote:
The problem with democracy in developing countries is that all advocates of democracy, even dictators, but nobody, not even the opposition will not share democracy with others than those who agree with themselves.

Everyone says that I am a "democrat", but nobody says: "I respect all opponents, and will listen to their views and try to take them into account."

Democracy requires generations to build. You fight for democracy, but you can only create democracy by understanding and empathy with your opponents.

If democracy was a delicate glass vase, then use it as a clubbing weapon.

Fela Kuti Wrote:
Myanmar Patriot wrote:

"The SPDC is rightly worried that politicians would sell out the nation to aliens."

Count on you, MP, to come to the defense of the SPDC, which has done more than its share of selling out to the Chinese.

And who is this "we" who consider Daw Suu a "traitor"? You and your SPDC buddies? Or was that the "royal we"? Or are you just speaking on behalf of your multiple personalities?

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Burma was not only betrayed but also swindled: the coloniser left behind the timebomb of Panglong. This is also known as AungSan's legacy, (an unfortunate one for Burma).
Now naive, so-called ethnic leaders - nobody had elected them - are trying to resuscitate the dead Panglong.

IRRAWADDY, would you please stop altering our messages. We will simply stop contributing to your messageboard leaving you with most puerile messages. E HOPE THAT THAT WILL NOT BE NECESSARY.
More seriopusly, we will cut your funding. No joke.
You are a cut above many so-called democracy activists. Stay on course fopr serious, balanced ,ethical journalism.
It is only a matter of time before we mussle in with media might.
We are worldwide! Don't ever think that we are supported by SPDC. We are totally independent.

Be patriotic. Be loyal to our, your king HM King Schwebomin II. Join us.


Nyo Min Wrote:
Your team once said when Aung Zaw won the Prince Claus award "Our journey to expose truth will continue"

Please do expose more about Western experts, screwed up UN bureaucrats, embassies and funding agencies and NGOs vultures who have been sucking up aid money and wanting to go into Burma without acknowledging how regime leaders and wives stuff their pockets and fatten their bank accounts.

It will cost your operation because you are donor-depended - they can pull the plug and silence you but you will always be remembered and respected... carry on...

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
"Now, as in the days of Aung San, Burmese who seek to restore their country’s freedom and dignity must do so largely with the assistance of foreign supporters whose agendas are not always identical to their own."

I totally disagree.

The situation is radically different. Burma is a sovereign state, albeit not democratic. England's colonisation of Burma was unprovoked. Post-colonial arrogance still persists in England as far as Burma is concerned. That is why we consider Suu Kyi a traitor. She was the problem - the obstacle to democracy. With her color co-ordinated clothes, she is more like a a cheap celebrity than a serious politician. She has absolutely no idea what the real problems of Burma are: threat to unity, to sovereignty, treason by so-called democracy activists, threat to Burmese culture - and insidious foreign meddling by neo-colonialists and imperialists. This is no joke. The SPDC is rightly worried that politicians would sell out the nation to aliens.

leona Wrote:
part 2

Embassies here in Bangkok can feed lies to their headquarters in respected capitals.
So watch out... I am sure Danish embassy can also, if they want, manufacture lies and fabricate reports about Burma and Irrawaddy to its office in Copenhagen.

We recently discovered that the Danish embassy had deliberately informed its people in Copenhagen that Irrawaddy print magazine was printed in Hong Kong. We know it is nonsense but what is behind all this – a well-organized smear campaign against your image and exiled group's excellent work to discredit.

We are not sure if it is related issue – these days Danish tourists have little trouble in getting visa to enter Burma. Who is currying flavor with the regime? Let's find out....


LEONA Wrote:
part 1

A sincere and kind warning to the Irrawaddy Team

Let me salute your fine and quality coverage on Burma and election.

Let me share my sympathy with you and your ongoing trouble with Danish embassy. It is in the interest of journalists in Bangkok and elsewhere.

I want to warn you that Irrawaddy becomes a prime target of western embassies (ironically, not from Asean embassies!) since your coverage on the regime's sham election, EC delegation in Bangkok and its support to the third force inside Burma. There has been a systematic (like Than Shwe did to his rivals and “the lady”) attempt to gag exiled media like Irrawaddy and other groups operating along the border.

They more you speak up the truth they will hate you more...

Nyo Min Wrote:
Leo Nichols Returned from Death

Leo Nichols, honorary consul in Burma to Denmark would be sad to read about the spat between the Danish embassy and Irrawaddy.

Leo Nichols, 65, a close friend of Aung San Suu Kyi died in Insein prisons in 1996. He suffered from diabetes and heart problems after he was sentenced several years in prison. He donated money to opposition parties — he was very close to Suu Kyi and he allowed her to use his fax machine to send her articles to foreign news - that was his crime.

When in prison, he did not receive proper medicare. An autopsy allegedly performed by government doctors found atherosclerosis and that he had died of heart failure.

Following the news of his arrest, the Danish government asked for his prison conditions to be improved.

Now the embassy has stopped support for democracy groups and has spread a smear campaign against Irrawaddy media. I knew Uncle Leo very well in Burma. If he were still alive, he would be sad to see the embassy's behavior and how it has been treating its partners.

USDPLiars Wrote:
Nigel Jackson,

Irrawaddy has every right to defend itself especially when documents that are submitted as "confidential" and when lives of those involved in the work of journalism & news broadcasting, etc. are placed in jeopardy.

Grants & aids, whether they be from INGOs, private & public foundations, government agencies, come with stipulations that must be adhered to. In the same way, when reports are received from the recipient agencies or organizations (Irrawaddy, etc.) stating that the reports be kept as confidential, professional business or sound ethics must be maintained. I have worked with USAID, AUSAID, NZAID, Canada Fund, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, etc. When confidentiality is requested from them, they respect our request. With the leaking of documents & reports submitted to Danish Federal Government agency, it is professionally unacceptable!

The Irrawaddy represents more than a news agency. It also represents the people of Myanmar. I am a part of the people.

nigel Jackson Wrote:
Really the Irrawaddy has taken it too far this time. Indirectly comparing yourself with the country's father Aung San is ridiculous and the historical comparison is completely out of proportion. The magazine's role is to report on news from Burma, nothing more nothing less. Stop whining.

Kerry Wrote:
Any organisation or vested interest in the world that is stopping Burma's freedom at this time (for any reason)is working against the wishes of the globe.

These interests are becoming clearer, and only seem to be winning.

It is time for Burma's freedom. More people want it and know about it than will stop the river of greed, that is callous to human lives.

Free Man Wrote:
"Accusing the donor of siding with the rulers because it stopped not funding you anymore is too much and wrong."

Generally, I agree. But I think something fishy is going on here. The donar's action amounts to back-stabbing. Despite this, I would like to say thank you to the donor for financing the Irrawaddy for the past few years.

"The media's prime responsibility is to give the audience credible news or news without bias, but not for building a democratic country or any other purpose."

The media itself is the fourth pillar of democracy. So, it would not be wrong to say that the media plays a role in building and maintaining a democratic society.

Zaw Min Wrote:
Ignorance might be a better word even though the action amounts to betrayal of those risking their lives in our country.

We should understand that people outside judge things in our country without really understanding it. Worse is judging in a cursory manner to justify exploiting our people and our resources. It is not us (our people yearning for freedom and democracy) against them (the military). But rather "them" that includes not only the military but the exploiters from abroad including lip service providers.

We need to rely on our own people and here too, please don't go back to 1990 by saying we need a united but dumb front. We need a agree-to-disagree people whose aims are the same - freedom and rule of laws for our country.

Aung Moe Wrote:
The action of the Danish Embassy in Bangkok clearly highlights the situation where the so-called EXPERTS review and submit reports on BURMA and the OPPOSITION that is struggling to forge a meaningful change, without understanding the situation at all. What a SHAME.

Free Man Wrote:

Marcus collins Wrote:
Don't worry--everybody in Europe knows that the governments in Denmark and the Netherlands have changed from progressive to "Brown." What ultra rightists proclaim as the truth is seldom more than so much hot air. See Denmark and the Netherlands as patients with very contagious diseases. Stay away from them, don't bother to do business with them or to enter into a dialogue; it is a waste of time and effort. People who have lost the plot will never believe anyone pointing this out.

Leona Wrote:
Dear Irrawaddy and Irrawaddy readers,

Here is the another story concerning theDanish Embassy in Bangkok. The Danish Burma Committee recently released the statement which explained what happened. You are not alone.

Nyunt Shwe Wrote:
As the Danish government was a donor country, it has the right to complain, but digging the distant past, knowingly not reported or criticised before, is not sincere and not the way of our culture. We must thank any one for what they contributed even for a tiny amount. Accusing the donor of siding with the rulers because it stopped not funding you anymore is too much and wrong.

The media's prime responsibility is to give the audience credible news or news without bias, but not for building a democratic country or any other purpose.

I thank Irrawaddy for what I learned through its pages, even though I could not accept some of them. I would like to advise you not to say any bad thing to your previous donor and show your humble acceptance of the lot.
With best wishes,

More Articles in This Section

bullet Courage and Cowardice in the Courtroom

bullet The President's Speech

bullet Burma’s Trust Deficit

bullet Burma’s Much-Awaited News Finally Arrives

bullet A Cruel Clemency

bullet Human Rights in Burma: No Excuse for Delay

bullet Time for Thein Sein to Prove the Skeptics Wrong

bullet Making it Legal

bullet Burma's Forgotten Farmers

bullet One Year Later: Bogus Election Offers Some Hope

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