Response to Allegations from the Burma Video Journalist Group

October 5 2011 ScandAsia published the story “Oslo based Burmese Radio hit by financial scandal

We have now received a respond from the Burma Video Journalist Group:

We, Burma Video Journalist (VJ) Group, have been working as the Democratic Voice of
Burma’s (DVB) Inside Operation Network, and wish to respond to allegations made against us
by DVB’s Management and Board of Directors on the DVB English Language website, dated
30th September, 2011.1 This statement contains the allegation that during 2010,the leadership of
DVB’s Inside Operation Network Burma may have embezzled up to up to Baht 9 million (1.7
million Norwegian Kroners or approximately 300,000 US Dollars) from funds allocated for
journalists and operations inside Burma. At the same time we became aware of a one-sided,
imbalanced DVB television interview with the Acting Executive Director of DVB, Mr Harm
Yawnghwe, which revealed that the Executive Director of DVB, Aye Chan Naing, and the
Deputy Executive Director, KhinMaung Win, had both temporarily stepped down from their
management positions. He did not, however, mention that the chief of our Inside Operation
Network, Myo Min Naing, had his position suspended by the instruction of the Board.
In August 2011, without prior notice, DVB reduced its funding to our Inside Operation Network
(Burma VJ) by one third. We subsequently informed DVB’s Oslo management team that our
operations inside Burma would be seriously affected as result of the consequent budget cuts, and
that further reductions would be a significant obstacle to continued operations inside the country.
Because of this, DVB’s Executive Director, Aye Chan Naing, came to our office in Thailand in
order to meet the managers of our Inside Operations Network. During this weeklong meeting,
Aye Chan Naing informed our managers that he would be taking direct responsibility for our
financial and managerial matters, since his accountants in Oslo had informed him of the issue of
missing money. This was to be a temporary arrangement for the duration of two months, until
common ground could be established between us.
During this meeting Aye Chan Naing interviewed our managers regarding our costs, including
salaries, support materials, and details relating to the cost of gathering information from our
sources. Following these interviews, independently and without consultation, Aye Chan Naing
drew up a new budget proposal for DVB’s donors. Our managers felt that this proposal displayed
anacute lack of consideration for the nature of our work. For instance, because of the
underground and secretive nature of our work, we cannot provide comprehensive receipts for the
costs of our sources, as requested by DVB Oslo. Furthermore, this request contradicts an original
gentlemen’s agreement between Burma VJ and DVB Oslo, where DVB Oslo recognized that it
was impractical to operate inside Burma with full transparency and accountability, and that it
would pose a threat to the security of our network and our associates. The very fact that they
have backtracked on this prior agreement undermines our trust in the management of DVB Oslo,
and dents our confidence in the possibility of future cooperation.
1Democratic Voice of Burma ‘Statement: Possible Embezzlement of DVB Funds’
http://www.dvb.no/news/press-statement-possible-embezzlement-of-funds-in-dvb/17912
[accessed October 10th, 2011] The most serious issue, however, is DVB’s attempt to change Burma VJ’s underground
leadership that has been in place since 2006. We must reject DVB Oslo’s attempt to take control
of our underground operations since we cannot place confidence in their ability to run such a
network. Our financial distribution system is one of the issues in contention. This is a system
designed to pay salaries and sources securely and smoothly in a situation characterized by strict
state control, censorship and oppression. The context in which we operate means that we simply
cannot comply with DVB Oslo’s absolute demand that we operate with full transparency and
accountability. Their proposal to set up a full salary pay roll, like the one in place in Oslo, is
simply unworkable on the ground in Burma and is dangerous to our associates.
We did however make it clear that we are open to suggestions as to how we may improve our
operations in Burma. Nevertheless, Aye Chan Nainginformed us that he had no option but to
insist that we work under his guidance. Since the nature of our work means that we cannot
comply with his demands, Burma VJ managers and staff based in Mae Sot have resigned from
their positions, and will vacate their offices and return their equipment to Toe ZawLett, Bureau
Chief of DVB in Thailand. They will then shut down all Inside Operations offices based in
Thailand.
Because our network is built on teamwork we feel collective responsibility for any issues that
arise, so our inside manager has tried to investigate the financial problems reported byAye Chan
Naing. In response to the unofficial allegation made against us, and in order to discuss the issue
with our reporters inside Burma (who have made it clear to Oslo directly that they do not get
enough support),our manager requested details from Aye Chan Naing about the amount of
money missing, how it had been calculated, and in what areas it had disappeared. Aye Chan
Naing was unable to provide these details at the time, informing us that only the accountant in
Oslo could. Even so, in the statement released on October 1st 2011, DVB gave details of
questions asked by our inside managers. It is unfair and unacceptable to release a public media
statement without either informing the other party, or attempting to resolve the issue with our
managers.
Since DVB is itself an unofficial media organization that is registered under a pseudonym in
Thailand, it is not unreasonable to expect DVB Oslo to recognize the practical limitations that
constrain our reporters on the ground inside Burma, whose work carries great risks. To underline
the point, even some NGOs that are legally registered in Burma, who are working with the
support of the European Union, cannot reveal many of the details demanded under the Freedom
of Information Act. Consider then the situation of those engaged in underground operations. Our
network has been operating secretively, without even the recognition of the majority of DVB
staff, but it has now been put in danger since the management and board members have publicly
exposed its existence. They must now bear sole responsibility for placing the security of our
associates in jeopardy.
Our network has been working with DVB since 2006, reporting important news from Burma and
revealing secrets of the military regime. However, DVB Oslo is currently attempting to
transform or terminate our role inside the country, and we regard DVB’s public statement to be a
cynical and misguided attempt by DVB executives to gain full control of our Inside Operations
network. We consider the statement to be a pre-meditated political assassination, or a conspiracy
against our network. Even though we would like to continue working with DVB, in co-operation
with other organizations, we will stand firmly for our basic principles of promoting the
movement fighting for change in Burma’s political system to the best of our ability.
We stand together in unity with our reporters and colleagues working inside and outside Burma.
With Best Regards,
Members of BurmaVJ inside Network
For more information
AungHtun AungGyi
66898589982 (Thai) 4477604111510 (UK)

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