Outlaw NGOs, INGOs resume activities amidst Myanmar's shifting political landscape

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Hsu/ Iris (NP News) - Mar 28

It has been reported that out of nearly 200 INGOs and 1,400 NGOs working in Myanmar, more than half have not renewed their registration and are now operating as unregistered NGOs.

Prior to the 2021 political transition, over 1,500 NGOs and INGOs were operating locally. However, following the political crisis, many organizations have chosen not to re-register under the current government's regulations.

A source familiar with NGOs and INGOs community told The NP News, "While some international organizations' registrations haven't expired, they haven't responded to the renewal process. This appears to be a form of protest. Only one or two organizations have formally requested cancellation. The rest are simply not engaging and inactive."

At the union level, there are over 1,385 NGOs and more than 194 INGOs. Following the enactment of the Organization Registration Law in 2022, only a small number of organizations have re-registered. Reports indicate that over 830 NGOs have reached the end of their organizational lifespan and require renewal. Similarly, for INGOs, the registrations of over 120 have lapsed and went outlaw. More than 540 NGOs and over 60 INGOs are still operating under the previous legislation as their registrations have not yet expired.

Within one year of the new law being enacted, approximately 80 NGOs and 30 INGOs have successfully applied for renewals," confirmed a reliable source. Additionally, reports suggest that certain NGOs and INGOs are delaying their registration renewals due to their reluctance to comply with the new Organization Registration Law introduced in October 2022.

There are reports indicating that organizations prioritize rights over accountability. The 2008 Constitution does not mandate registration for organizations. However, following the 2017-18 period and based on FATF recommendations, a new law was deemed necessary to combat money laundering and prevent the illicit flow of funds.

The source further claimed that the influx of funds from NGOs and INGOs contributed to a rise in alleged money laundering during the 2020 general election. This, they allege, was a key factor behind the new NGO/INGO law enacted by the current government. The law includes a provision requiring INGOs to have at least 40% Myanmar citizens in their executive membership.

Currently, many INGOs and NGOs are hesitant to re-register, demo­nstrating a reluctance to uphold account­ability and comply with the regulations outlined in the new law.

Under the new registration process, NGOs and INGOs must select a primary area of focus such as health, education, social development, or environment. They can only obtain registration after receiving approval from the relevant ministry overseeing their chosen field.

Hence, certain organizations continue to operate without applying for registration. The source elaborated stating, "Previously, ministries did not require an 'Approved' stamp; a simple 'Nothing to Object' sufficed for registration. However, the current process mandates ministries to explicitly state 'Approve' for an organization to secure registration approval."

Consequently, the ministry carefully considers approving organizations, as they bear responsibility for any misconduct by approved entities. This cautious approach results in thorough deliberations and complexities when new organizations seek registration.

Until 2021, in Myanmar, each INGO and NGO had an estimated circulation of over one million dollars, solely from a financial perspective. With over 1500 organizations operating within the country, the total USD circulation may have exceeded one billion USD.

Indeed, out of these 1500 organizations, the total amount of USD circulating within the country through mysterious channels is estimated to exceed 5 billion dollars annually, yet there remains no clear indication of how much of this sum has been utilized to influence Myanmar's political landscape. This question warrants thorough scrutiny and vigilant monitoring.

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