Burma accuses US of 'spreading poison'

A US government centre in Burma is spreading “poison” among local reporters through its English for Journalism courses, a state-owned newspaper said today.

The Kyemon newspaper said apart from teaching journalistic ethics and writing, foreign instructors at the American Centre in Burma, known as Myanmar by its military rulers, have gathered information about the country’s education, health and social conditions from the students.

“The ‘English for Journalism’ course attended by young journalists from various Myanmar media groups is like poison, because the course is nothing but sugar-coated bitter medicine,” the newspaper wrote.

The article went on to indicate that the centre, through courses like the one on journalism, was spreading American propaganda and harming “young Myanmar brains”.

Thomas Pierce, who heads the centre, declined immediate comment since he had not read the article.

“We are working to improve journalism in Burma, working with journalists to both improve their English and reporting skill,” he said.

The centre, operated by the US Embassy in Yangon, offers educational courses, a library, films and other facilities that are open to all Burmese citizens.

Commentaries in state-owned newspapers often reflect the viewpoint of the ruling military government.

A similar, anti-West commentary was carried in state-run papers in February slamming Western embassies for offering classes to members of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

The junta frequently accuses Western powers of trying to interfere in the country’s affairs and accuses Burma’s pro-democracy movement of collaborating with them.

The US has imposed political and economic sanctions on the junta because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically-elected government.


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