Humanitarian group close office in Burma

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue has been forced to close its office in Rangoon after Burmese authorities refused to renew their stay permit.

Andrew Andrea, HD's head of communications in Geneva, said the group had applied to extend their operations permit some time ago but the move was rejected by officials.

"We have been in discussions with the relevant department since making the application in December for the renewal of the permit. We received information that this would not be renewed," Andrea said.

The centre, which has programs in several Asian countries aims to support reconciliation and humanitarian engagement, first opened offices in Rangoon in 2000 and had forged relations with both governmental and non-governmental organisations in Burma, including the National League for Democracy.

The group's stay permit expired on February 22 and their Rangoon office will close on March 31.

Andrea said the centre, directed by Leon de Riedmatten, a former Red Cross representative to Burma, had contributed to efforts to create an environment conducive to reconciliation between the military government, the NLD and ethnic groups.

"We have received a lot of support for our work both inside and outside the country. More people are prepared to discuss the difficult issues, especially at the international level," Andrea told Mizzima.

"Although unpredictable, this momentum may prove especially productive when all sides recognise the benefits of a win-win process. We have been able to open and facilitate channels of communication that may otherwise not have happened."

Andrea said the group had told Burmese authorities they wanted to reopen offices in the country as soon as possible.

"We have no idea about the future - anything can happen, although we are hopeful and remain committed to doing what we can."