Buddhist monks and political activists of Myanmar have little to show for their recent peaceful demonstrations in support of change, unless you count international revulsion over the violent crackdown on the protests by the ruling military junta. Such is the nature of non-violent campaigns for recognition of human rights. They are a test of patience and resolve in which small victories can sustain the push for reform and resistance to repression. Thanks partly to modern technology such as mobile phones and the internet, the latest round of protests was well organised and quickly attracted the full glare of world media attention, raising the pressure on the regime. In the light of these events, this newspaper's report today that US taxpayers have financed the training of monks and activists outside Myanmar's borders in various aspects of non-violent protest raises some difficult questions. The support is part of a wider operation run by a quasi NGO, the National Endowment for Democracy, to support exiled pro-democracy activists. Officials from the organisation say it does not operate inside Myanmar or instigate or direct protests, but aims to 'empower and strengthen' existing efforts from outside. Even taken at face value, such activities raise concerns. The demonstrations last month, in response to fuel price rises, would probably have occurred even in the absence of such external support for the protesters. But the National Endowment for Democracy, and other groups, have certainly provided practical assistance. And there is evidence to suggest the protesters put it to good use. It is easy to sympathise with efforts to help the long-suffering people of Myanmar secure greater freedom and a better life. The ruling generals enrich themselves from the country's abundant natural resources while the population is stricken with poverty and disease. There have been serious human-rights violations, such as forced labour and ethnic persecution. And the recent crackdown on the protests was rightly condemned. There is little sign of genuine progress towards democracy. While the junta proceeds with what it says are steps to bring about reform, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi still languishes under house arrest. Even so, doubts must be raised about the wisdom of activities such as those funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. They risk playing into the hands of the junta, which has been anxious to portray the protests as the work of outside forces - rather than the result of a genuine desire for democracy among Myanmar's people. There is every danger that this kind of support will be perceived as meddling, or as part of a some sinister US strategy aimed at destabilising Myanmar and bringing down the regime. Ultimately, it may not help the cause of democracy in Myanmar. The international community does have an important role to play in bringing pressure to bear on Myanmar's leaders. The country's allies have a responsibility to use what influence they have over the junta to put Myanmar on the right path. China, with its close ties to Myanmar, has an important role to play. But efforts to bring about a change for the better should focus on joint action, preferably taken through the United Nations - rather than training monks and activists in the art of peaceful protest.