South China Morning Post runs Response from IRI President

Support for Burma’s democrats is not meddling
South China Morning Post 
Letters to the Editor

Your editorial, “Training protesters boosts claims of foreign meddling” (October 21), questions whether the International Republican Institute (IRI) and others should assist the Burmese people in their struggle for freedom and democracy, saying that “There is every danger that this kind of support will be perceived as meddling . . . ultimately, it may not help the cause of democracy in Myanmar.”

In judging that support, no one is better placed than those with whom we work, and their legitimately elected leaders, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, who stated, “I am very grateful to the International Republican Institute for what it has done to promote democracy in different parts of the world, especially, of course, in my own country…we have had to depend on our friends to see us through very difficult times.”

IRI has assisted Burma’s democrats for 15 years and will continue to do so, proudly. Burma’s military junta has repeatedly refused open internal dialogue and reform, leaving Burma’s democrats with no option but to seek help from outside. When Ms Suu Kyi thanked IRI for responding, she welcomed us as one of the many “who understand democracy and human rights are the key to peace all over the world”. Beyond the scores of governments supporting Burma’s democrats are nongovernmental organisations from Norway, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. We assist Burma’s democrats, we don’t lead. Recent events there were entirely a Burmese undertaking initiated by Burmese. That they are willing to take such risks, repeatedly, answers the question of why so many nations and international NGOs support them. We and Burma’s democrats believe that our assistance will bring freedom sooner than it will otherwise occur.

Throughout Asia the lesson is clear. Countries that have embraced reform and are opening up are thriving, while Asia’s closed societies stand out as places of poverty, hunger, oppression and death. Even China has welcomed many international NGOs over the years to collaborate on grassroots elections, rule of law, good governance, women’s rights and development of civil society.

It is odd that the Sunday Morning Post, which has the support of international standards protecting freedom of the press, would choose to echo dictators’ accusations that the international community is “meddling” by aiding Burma’s democrats. IRI values the words of Burma’s legitimately elected leaders more than we fear accusations by those who rule only by force. So should the Sunday Morning Post.

Lorne Craner
The International Republican Institute

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