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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Cheery Zahau

Interviewed January 8, 2010

It’s very difficult to have a definite judgment on the international development agencies’ work inside Burma: whether they are helpful or whether they are harmful for the communities. But one thing that really strikes my mind is that they cannot talk. They know human rights violations happen. They know children are being taken from train stations, bus stations, market, to be soldiers, but they cannot talk; because if they talked, the military regime will take off their registrations or MOU [Memorandum of Understanding].

So, as a development agency, they are trying to tell us or they are trying to tell the international community that criticizing SPDC [State Peace and Development Council, official title for the military regime in Burma at the time of this interview] does not work. But I think that is not the case in Burma. You have to tell the world what is happening inside Burma, or you have to tell the world what you see in Burma. And we are doing it. And these international development agencies are not willing to do that. So that’s something that I feel uncomfortable about: their activities or their involvement.

The military regime that rules Burma at the moment is called State Peace and Development Council, SPDC. The ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries have never been critical to the SPDC as much as they should be, because they’re worried that SPDC will not cooperate with them. And they still need the natural resources from Burma.

So the ASEAN policy, the not interfering policy, has been a big barrier for them to be very critical against the military regime in Burma. So in that sense they’re not very helpful. In the ASEAN charter they have good governance, transparency, accountability – all of those mentions that SPDC, Burmese military regime, has failed in every step. So it’s time for ASEAN to really be critical.

And also with the 2010 election coming up, ASEAN should have done a lot more pressure on SPDC to include all the oppositions and to make this election credible and inclusive.