Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


March 8, 2006

Please forward.

In our recent analysis of the prospects for a new popular uprising in Burma, at the end of “Burma Questions and Answers,” we observed that:

- The United States will not fund real on-the-ground democracy initiatives inside Burma.

- It is regrettable that the possibility of such an uprising is not a regular and public subject of interest by Burmese media and pro-democracy groups.

Due to an incident that has just occurred on the Mizzima website (www.mizzima.com), we can now understand these issues more clearly, and also see that they are linked.

On March 1, Mizzima published a commentary by Htun Aung Kyaw, President of the Civil Society of Burma, titled “The NLD’s dead end.” He argued that the NLD’s recent offer to the SPDC is insufficient, and that much stronger steps, even armed action, are required to unseat the dictatorship. Mizzima received numerous letters stating, in Mizzima’s words, that it “promoted an armed uprising in Burma and the use of violence against the military.” This in itself is surprising, that the letter writers would reject out of hand the possibility of self defense against the murderous tyrant Than Shwe. It also appears to be an attempt by these individuals to censor the website, to prohibit such a discussion. It seems to me that people who say we can’t even talk about revolution in Burma, are closet SPDC sympathizers.

One of Mizzima’s main funders, the National Endowment for Democracy, also complained, asking them to retract the commentary, which they did. The NED is a leading source of money for the Burma democracy movement, distributing funds authorized by the United States Government. It funds many Burmese media and pro-democracy groups. It is now apparent that NED policy is silencing such media and groups about a topic of critical importance: an open discussion of all the possible means by which Than Shwe might be removed from power. In the United States, free discourse, freedom of expression, is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The National Endowment for Democracy is suppressing this right in Burma, a society that is still striving for democracy. The organization opposes the people of Burma acting as Americans did in 1776. Apparently, according to the NED, even a Burmese Declaration of Independence should be forbidden.

The organization should be renamed the National Endowment for Censorship, or Hypocrisy.

The article is no longer available on the Internet. If anyone has a copy, and while we might not necessarily agree with all of its content, in the interests of free speech we would be happy to publish it. (We have been the victims of censorship as well. Dictator Watch statements are censored from Burma Net, which will no longer post anything we release, even hard news, e.g., the Karen Situation Report.)

U. S. funding for Burma must receive a specific budget allocation, and channel. Humanitarian funding is distributed through USAID.

Democracy initiatives are funded by the NED and also the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL). But the latter two will not support “hard” funding, i.e., initiatives that might actually lead to democracy in Burma now. Instead, they support “open society” and “capacity building” programs. This means that the potential sources for real on-the-ground democracy projects are limited to the Department of Defense, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and perhaps the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).

Until Burma is a pressing interest to the United States, meaning a national security interest, or until a top American official, at the level of Secretary of State or higher, develops a sincere, personal concern about the country, such sources will not become involved. Until this time, it is also hypocritical for Secretary Rice or President Bush to speak as if they do have such a personal concern for Burma.

The NED is stifling the democracy movement, including critical debates and also action. If you agree with this conclusion, we ask that you email this statement to the organization, at info@ned.org.