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Cablegate: Promoting Democracy in Burma

VZCZCXRO6104
OO RUEHBZ RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGO #1145 3310246
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270246Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6896
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0738
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4288
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 7829
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5389
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1261
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1188
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS RANGOON 001145

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, AND IO
PACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM BM
SUBJECT: PROMOTING DEMOCRACY IN BURMA


1. (SBU) Summary. Rangoon-based Western missions met on
November 21 to discuss the U.S., UK, Australian, and German
small grants programs. Grants programs among the embassies
focus either on infrastructure development or capacity
building. The French Cultural Counselor said that he hoped
to lobby Paris for funding to initiate a small grants program
based on what he learned from the meeting. Christian Scheibe
of the German Embassy recounted that the Ministry of
Information had solicited funding from his embassy for a
Ministry library project, a request which they refused. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) On November 21, the British Embassy hosted a lunch
meeting on embassy small grants programs in Burma. Diplomats
from the German, Australian, French, and American embassies
attended the meeting. Grants programs among the embassies
fell into two basic categories: infrastructure development
and capacity building. The French are currently working to
gain approval for a program from Paris.

3. (SBU) The Australian and German programs focus on
infrastructure development. Christian Scheibe of the German
Embassy described the focus of his program as promoting
livelihood development, building primary schools, and
protecting the environment. His total budget for the year is
approximately USD 170,000, and he expects that amount to
increase in the near future due to renewed German government
interest in Burma. Australia's Simon Harrison described his
program as similar, although slightly smaller. In the coming
year, he expects to have approximately USD 100,000 to support
local groups and NGOs in infrastructure development, such as
dam building and school and orphanage renovation. While his
funds cover some costs of consultants and labor, he cannot
pay for training.

4. (SBU) The British Embassy program, like our program, has
focused in recent years on capacity building and promoting
democracy. This includes funding small library projects and
training sessions in topics ranging from farm cultivation to
democracy building. British Public Diplomacy Officer
Katherine Forsyth said that her total budget is approximately
USD 80,000 per year, although she also expects that number to
rise with increased interest in Burma.

5. (SBU) French Cultural Counselor Stephane Dovert is
lobbying Paris to provide funding for a similar small grants
program. He hoped that the report to Paris he writes as a
result of the meeting would encourage the French government
to provide funding for such a program. The French Ambassador
told Charge that he has had difficulty persuading Paris of
the need for extra funds for Burma, because France already
contributes 17 percent of the EC assistance budget, which in
Burma primarily goes to health.

6. (SBU) After sharing information about the various
programs, the group focused on library programs throughout
the country. Christian Scheibe said that the Ministry of
Information had approached the German Embassy seeking funding
for a library that it wanted to build. The embassy, he said,
refused to fund the project. The U.S. and UK have not
received such proposals for funding from the Ministry of
Information.

7. (SBU) Comment: Quiet information-sharing with other
embassies implementing small grants programs in Burma is an
effective way to share best practices. Other embassies have
been interested in our quiet success with small grants to
promote democracy and civil society. By taking the lead in
showing what can be done, we hope to encourage broader
assistance to civil society from a variety of sources. This
will help us stay under the radar while we thwart the Than
Shwe regime's efforts to suppress civil society. End
Comment.
VILLAROSA

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