Search

 

Cablegate: American Center Annex in Mandalay: Frequently Asked

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 001176

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID ABLD ASEC PREL KPAO KDEM ABLD ASEC PREL KPAO KDEM BM BMEAID
SUBJECT: AMERICAN CENTER ANNEX IN MANDALAY: FREQUENTLY ASKED
QUESTIONS


APP:CMM
DFT:RKM
CLEAR:PD:EB, P/E:PM, RSO:AV, MGT:LE, GSO:TF

SECSTATE WASHDC, PRIORITY

SENSITIVE

TAGS: EAID ABLD ASEC PREL KPAO KDEM ABLD ASEC PREL KPAO KDEM BM BMEAID
SUBJECT: AMERICAN CENTER ANNEX IN MANDALAY: FREQUENTLY ASKED
QUESTIONS

1. (SBU) Given the summer-cycle turnover in personnel
working on Burma issues, we thought it would be helpful to
provide a quick synopsis of the plan to establish an annex
of Rangoon's American Center in Mandalay. This informal
format provides Embassy Rangoon's perspective on many
questions frequently asked by those who have not seen all of
the exchanges on the Mandalay project over the past two
years. Embassy Rangoon seeks broad, active support to move
this project ahead without delay.

Q1: DO YOU INTEND TO REOPEN CONSULATE MANDALAY?

--Absolutely not. We plan to use the former Consulate
facility as an annex or extension of Rangoon's American
Center. Mandalay will be a platform to project our Public
Diplomacy pro-democracy and civil society programs into
Upper Burma, a location more accessible to Burma's
politically significant ethnic minorities.

Q2: WILL FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICERS BE POSTED TO MANDALAY?

--No American direct-hire employees, FSOs or any other
category, will be posted in Mandalay. Only grantees and PSA-
Plus locally engaged staff will work there.

Q3: WHAT'S THE STATUS OF THE MANDALAY FACILITY?

--Consulate Mandalay, housed in a USG-owned property, was
closed in 1980. The facility was thereafter used as a USG
guesthouse until the mid-1990s. Contract caretakers funded
by the State Department have protected and maintained the
facility since.

Q4: WHAT SORT OF ACTIVITIES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN THERE?

--The American Center's Public Diplomacy programs provide a
unique environment for pro-democracy and civil society
activities, a top U.S. priority in Burma. Mandalay will
house English teaching programs (incorporating a strong dose
of civics, critical thinking, and participatory learning),
cultural events featuring America's diversity and
creativity, specialized professional training programs for
pro-democracy and civil society groups, an information
resource center providing access to American publications
and computers, and other programs similar to those offered
at Rangoon's American Center.

Q5: HOW WILL THIS BE PAID FOR?

--Most of the ongoing and once-off expenses can be covered
by the multi-million dollar Burma Earmark funds. These ESF
monies currently go to support pro-democracy activities
inside and (mostly) outside of Burma. Both Post's PD
allotment and recycled funds will be used for appropriate
start-up and recurring costs. Last month Post recalculated
the estimated cost of facility make-ready and security
upgrades. This new figure, $25,000, is well below an
earlier estimate of $40,400. The majority of the costs not
covered by potential ESF, PD, Post PD allotment, or recycled
funding would be DS expenses. Start-up costs for 13 Local
Guard Force members and their annual recurring expenses
would be an estimated $85,000 and $68,000 respectively.
(See following FAQ for other options on funding guards.)

Q6: WHAT ABOUT SECURITY CONCERNS?

--Mandalay is classified as a low-threat city in the
Security Environment Threat List and the American Center
annex is a Public Office Facility. This means that
relatively modest physical security standards apply. These
include standard features such as solid doors, adequate
exterior lighting, grilled first-floor windows, Mylar, and
other moderate requirements. Some sort of guards or
caretakers are needed to screen visitors and vehicles.
Whether the guards/caretakers need to be part of the
embassy's Local Guard Force or could be contract guards
hired by the grantee (and paid for by the grantee, as could
be stipulated in a draft grant) is open to discussion.

Q7: WHY DO THIS NOW?

--Burma's military dictatorship has in recent years
successfully closed down or neutered most aspects of normal
civil society. The National League for Democracy (NLD) and
the democratic ethnic minority parties are on the ropes.
Mandalay can provide space to nourish and develop democratic
leaders and organizations likely to play a key role in
Burma's future. Upper Burma is home to a wide range of pro-
democracy political parties and is an important base of
support for the NLD. In Mandalay, the country's second
largest city, our numerous interlocutors constantly request
the kind of programs envisioned for this facility. The
building is available, the bulk of the funding is available,
the need is great, and the longer we wait, the greater the
chances that the dimly flickering flame of hope may be
extinguished.

Q8: WILL THE GOVERNMENT OF BURMA OBJECT?

--The British recently opened a branch British Council
library and information center in Mandalay. They did so
without fanfare or explicit GOB permission. The GOB did not
object when the American Center expanded its off-site
Rangoon compound into a neighboring building for English
teaching. The GOB informally allows a large number of
language institutes, training centers, and even schools
(such as the USG-supported International School Yangon) to
function, despite a formal GOB monopoly on such activities.

Q9: WHAT DOES AUNG SAN SUU KYI THINK ABOUT THIS?

--Burma's democracy champion and Nobel Peace laureate told
us, prior to her most recent arrest, that she supports the
idea. She is a co-founder of an ongoing specialized
democracy-training program undertaken at the American Center
in Rangoon. She has nominated candidates for scholarships
in our English Language training and has actively followed
students' progress. She tells us that members of her party
who live upcountry find it difficult to travel to Rangoon to
participate in Public Diplomacy activities, given the great
distances and limited infrastructure.

Q10: WHAT WOULD BE THE REACTION ON THE HILL FROM MEMBERS
AND STAFFERS WHO FOLLOW BURMA ISSUES?

In January 2004, Embassy Rangoon COM, PAO, and P/E Chief
provided detailed briefings on the proposed project to
senior Senate staff member Paul Grove and senior House staff
members James McCormick and David Killion, and received a
positive and encouraging response. Subsequently, Paul Grove
contacted the COM to advise her that he had briefed Senator
McConnell and that the project had the "green light".

Q11: HOW CAN ONE HELP? PROMPT ACTION NEEDED

--Any assistance in moving this project promptly through the
bureaucratic maze would be greatly appreciated, e.g.,
quickly clearing the Mandalay Decision Memo (that will go
from EAP to M) and urging others to do likewise. We seek
immediate approval for this project with the understanding
that Post will work closely with concerned parties on the
implementing details. Embassy Rangoon stands ready to
answer any questions or provide any clarifications desired.
We have had positive reactions to our briefings conducted
for key Hill staffers and senior Department officials. Post
has encouraged visitors to go to Mandalay to inspect the
facility; approximately twenty have done so since we first
initiated this project in 2002.

--How to best support Burma's beleaguered democracy
movement? Extra funding to decreasingly relevant exile
political groups probably won't help much. Establishing a
platform for our effective Public Diplomacy programs in
Mandalay will.
MARTINEZ

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

OECD: Final Quarter Of 2020 Shows Continued Recovery In G20 International Merchandise Trade

G20 international merchandise trade continued to rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020 ( exports up 7.2% and imports up 6.8%), following the sharp falls seen in the first half of 2020, as lockdown measures affected trade globally. Although growth ... More>>

UN Report: Civilian Casualties Surged After Peace Talks Began In Afghanistan

Monitoring by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, and the UN Human Rights Office has revealed that despite a drop in civilians killed and injured overall in 2020 there was a rise in civilian casualties following the start of peace negotiations ... More>>

Climate: UN Chief Lauds ‘day Of Hope’ As US Officially Rejoins Paris Climate Accord

The official return of the United States to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change represents good news for the country and the world, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday during a virtual event to mark the occasion. The US, under ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs


2021: Critical Year To ‘reset Our Relationship With Nature’ – UN Chief

During this time of “crisis and fragility”, the UN chief told the United Nations Environment Assembly on Monday that human well-being and prosperity can be vastly improved by prioritizing nature-based solutions. Painting a picture of the turmoil ... More>>


Paris Agreement: UN Secretary-General António Guterres To Mark U.S. Reentry With Envoy For Climate John Kerry

Watch live at webtv.un.org UN Secretary-General António Guterres will join U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry at an event marking the United States’ reentry into the Paris Agreement this Friday. The discussion with the Secretary-General ... More>>

WeBeliev: Scoop In Conversation With Abhishek Sinha, Founder Of WeBeliev, An NZ Crowdfunding Platform

WeBeliev supports 17 SDGs, launching sector specific campaigns every month Q. What is WeBeliev and why did you start it? A. WeBeliev is a Singapore-registered crowdfunding platform aimed at fundraising for all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ... More>>