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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Khin Ohmar

Interviewed February 8, 2010

The international organizations, or the different agencies of the United Nations operating in the country, are those international organizations who actually were before on the border but now try to engage from within the country. I mean their intention is, of course, really appreciated by all of us inside and outside the country – by all the Burmese – because the people of Burma really need the help and the humanitarian assistance, all they can.

But my observation of what’s happening is that, I mean, it’s natural for a humanitarian organization to think that it will be better to engage with a population from within a country, so that they can have more access to the population in need. And if it were not Burma – if it were not a Burmese regime, if it were another conflict country – it could have been a different scenario. It could have been a different picture, I would say. But what they are dealing [with] is a military regime, which has systematically infiltrated into the lives of the people – very systematically, to the point that people are not able to speak. Even though they are out of the country, they are not able to speak of what is happening to them.

People are deeply traumatized under this regime. So even though the international community, or international NGOs, would like to go and help the people in the country, they are facing a lot of challenges. Of course one is the structure of the military regime, or the red tape, the bureaucracy, what do you call that? The bureaucratic procedure of the military regime is impossible to work with or for the international NGOs to have access to their local communities.

And because this is a regime which is so phobic of anyone coming to challenge their authority in any way, particularly, especially the international community coming into the country. They’re afraid that is going to open the way up to bring down their authority. And they are very aware of it. And therefore they are very prepared. Which is impossible for the INGOs [international non-governmental organizations] to overcome with. There are many ways that INGOs’ lives are made impossible and difficult to really help the people in the country.

So if you look at, for example, the different annual reports by all these NGOs or the UN agencies operating in a country, you will probably read a lot of good stories of the success of the programs, while you will still see a greater need to support the people, or assist the people. But then, when you really go down to meet with the people and listen to hear from them – if the people feel comfortable enough to tell you, with no fear – you will definitely hear a different story about those programs. Because the programs of the INGOs or the, you know, international organizations, in their report, are of course labeled as their programs. But it comes down to the communities, to whatever the level, it become the programs by the military regime.

So it is a propaganda. I mean I´ll give one example back in 2008, after the Cyclone Nargis. When the international aid was delivered to the country, and then these authorities, the Burmese authorities, bring those boxes of the aid. And those aids are in the name of them – in the name of the military regime. It’s not in the name of any country. It’s not in the name of any INGOs. You know?

And they do take advantage like that. So that, as if they were the one who are saving the people. See, they want to make this kind of face. So when you have an immunization program for the children, for example, and then, yes, it is a UN program. But when it comes down to the ground, to the people – in the eyes of the people – it is seen as the government program.

Whereas it should be free, but where people even still have to pay for their children to get an immunization. You see? So all these abuses of the international aid, it’s difficult for the outsider to really understand – except the Burmese. We, the Burmese, know so well how this regime operates and functions and manipulate the whole international.