Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – George Soros, the founder of the Open Society Foundation, which works to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in the world, visited Inle Lake in Shan State on Wednesday.
Win Myint, the Shan State minister for National Race Affairs, told Mizzima he confirmed the information with officials at a hotel in Khaungtia village, where Soros is staying.
On whether members of the Shan State government would meet Soros or not, Win Myint said, “We will meet with him only if he invites us.” He said the state government has not been told officials to meet with him or not to meet with him. Khaungtai village is seven miles from Nyaungshwe Township in Shan State.
Soros, 81, arrived in Burma because he wanted to visit Inle Lake and Bagan, two locations where his foundation has made donations, sources said.
He arrived by private plane on December 26. He will leave in early January, a businessman told Mizzima.
“On December 26 and 27, he was in Rangoon and today he went to Inle. His two sons accompanied him. I think it’s his family’s ‘vacation visit’,” he said.
In 1993, Soros founded the U.S.-based Open Society Institute (OSI).
Presently, OSI has branch offices in more than 70 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America that promote human rights, education, health and freedom of press. OSI donates about US$ 2 million a year to promote democracy in Burma, according to the Forbes website.
According to a 2007 cover story on the Forbes website, some 30 per cent of the foundation’s Burma Project money goes to education programs and university scholarships, the rest to grants for groups working on Burmese causes. Recipients included the Alternate Asean Network on Burma, which issues reports on Burma; the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, Burma's government-in-exile; and the Computer Network Training Program, which teaches computer skills in the refugee camps.
Capacity building and teaching English are priorities. David Mathieson, the Burma consultant for Human Rights Watch, has taught English to refugees in the camps and believes that English proficiency among the refugees is much greater than among the Thai population, according to the article.
Sometimes the Burma Project's support is more administrative than educational, as shown by its work with the National Coalition Government. Elected in 1990 but never installed, the shadow government resides in an office outside Washington, D.C. paid for by Soros. When it comes to policy, however, the project gives little advice, said a spokesperson. Instead it listens to the ministers' needs and makes introductions if they want to create alliances.