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With UN Ban in Bangkok, Political Gatherings Banned, Myanmar Voting on Giri Back Burner?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- The Asian tour of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon began in Thailand, with all political gatherings banned. Ban gave a speech saying that Thai problems are for Thais to solve, reported then as “internal affairs.”

  When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky for Ban's view the right to assemble for the redress of grievances, Nesirky replied that Ban had received a letter of protest, from the Red Shirt movement. But does that replace the right to assemble? Ban's spokesman wouldn't answer. Video here from Minute 29:12.

  In Nesirky's read out of Ban's time in Thailand, he did not mention the critique by the UN's special rapporteur on the right to health Anand Grover of violent anti-drug programs in the region. (When Inner City Press asked Anand, he said he would raise it with Ban Ki-moon or the Secretariat, video here.)

Myanmar was raised by Ban Ki-moon, but it is not clear how. In New York, the Good Office on Myanmar team, created by the General Assembly, have been reassigned to do other work under the Department of Political Affairs Tamrat Samuel.

  The shift, without GA approval, is not mentioned in the Secretariat's “Special Political Missions” submission to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.

Inner City Press asked the UN's humanitarian chief Valerie Amos about media reports that the UN's officer to help Myanmar with Cyclone Giri were rebuffed.

UN's Ban & Thai Abhisit, political gatherings and Myanmar vote not shown

 She said that “joint assessments” -- the same term used by the UN in Sudan -- have begun and indicate that the damage may be much larger than first thought, up to 400,000 people.

  Can a free, fair and transparent election be held among the impacted people, Inner City Press asked Ms. Amos, in Arakan State and elsewhere? She said this couldn't be known until the joint assessment is completed. The election is slated for November 7. Ban Ki-moon's next stops are Vietnam and Cambodia, where violent anti-drug programs are most extreme. Watch this site.

From the UN transcript of October 25, 2010 --

Inner City Press: I want to ask about the Secretary-General’s impending trip to Asia. There is a report to the Third Committee by the Special Rapporteur on the right to health about, among other things, what he sees as the violated practices in anti-drug programmes in many of the countries that Ban Ki-moon is going to be visiting — Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand — and he calls very strongly for the UN to move against people who are incarcerated. This is all according to his report. I just wonder: of the many issues obviously on the Secretary-General’s agenda as he visits these countries, is he aware of that? And there is a separate issue in Cambodia, where people has said that they are going to try and rally in front of Ban Ki-moon about evictions, forced evictions, in Cambodia. Are these… Can you sort of… Can we get a run-down of what issues he is planning to raise, and I just wonder whether these two are among them?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Sure. And again, I seem to recall that Farhan gave you a bit of a run-down on the trip last week, sitting here. As the trip progresses, we will be giving details. The Secretary-General and his delegation are en route at the moment to Thailand where, as you know, the visit starts. They then move to Cambodia and on to Viet Nam for this UN-ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] meeting and then to China, where, as you know, the Secretary-General will be visiting Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing. On the question of health, the very specific point that you raised, we can find out and probably tell you as the visit progresses. The same goes for the second part that you mentioned.

* * *

Pro-Asia Mahbubani Says Myanmar “Doing Badly,” Ban Ki-moon “In a Rough Patch”

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 -- Elite pro-Asia academic Kishore Mahbubani, speaking Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said that Myanmar is “doing badly.”

  Also in response to a question from Inner City Press about the UN Secretary General, Mahbubani's first response was that S-G Ban Ki-moon “has hit a rough patch.”

   Given that in other response Mahbubani said that Deng Xioping should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize and that Asia is a much more serious power than the Muslim world, that he nevertheless could not present a story of an upward trend line about Myanmar or Ban Ki-moon is significant.

   By contrast, Ban told Seoul's Yonhap that he is confident in receiving a second terms as S-G (Team Ban contests the translation) and that the reviews of his performance by the international community have been “very positive.” But even Mahbubani could not deliver a positive review.

   Mahbubani's remarks were delivered in a wood paneled room over Park Avenue and 68th Street, lined with oil painting of somber Caucasian old men. This was largely the audience, too, but for two younger women who spoke of human rights.

  In response, Mahbubani said that human rights cannot be spread by sanctions, and that “after Guantanamo Bay, no one takes the US State Department Human Rights Reports seriously.”

Among the audience were the sister of Senator John Kerry, who works at the US Mission to the UN, and Ban Ki-moon's speechwriter Michael Myer, among with John Brademas and David Denoon of NYU, both of whom asked questions.

  Listed but not questioning was “Judith Miller, Journalist.” One wondered what she thinks of Mahbubani's analysis that the US wrongfully spends 80% of its foreign policy on the Muslim world, including Iraq, while it should be devoting those resources to countering China's rise.

Mahbubani, when he was Singapore's PR to the UN, with Sri Lanka's Kohona

  While Mahbabani said that China overplayed its hand in strong-arming Japan to return its ship captain, one also wonders what he'd make of China's moves to block the release of a UN Sudan Sanctions Committee report asserting that Chinese bullets were found in Darfur after an attack on UN peacekeepers there. The event ended at 9 am, and Mahbubani said he had to catch at 10 am train.

 Footnotes: Mahbubani told the audience that he is used to being attacked, most recently on by a historian while taping this week's Fareed Zakaria GPS show on CNN. He praised Zakaria's piece which praises India -- a regular circle of praise.

  Just as Tom Friedman editorialized about conversation with Mahbubani over tea, Mahbubani recounted a talk with a “senior State Department official over tea.” In these heady circles, the UN and Ban Ki-moon are an afterthought, going through a rough patch. Watch this site.

   Mahbubani's talk was reminiscent of Tom Plate's "Giants of Asia" talk at the Singaporean Mission to the UN earlier this year, and his book series by that name which now, Inner City Press has been told, will not include Ban Ki-moon. We'll see.

* * *
On Myanmar, Ban Ignores Quintana's Call for Inquiry, Daewoo Win-Win Unanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 21 -- While on Myanmar the UN's own Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana has called for a Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on October 12 issued a report on human rights in Myanmar, A/65/367, which did not even mention the Commission of Inquiry idea, or accountability.

  On October 21, Inner City Press asked Quintana to honestly assess the Secretary General's performance on Myanmar. Quintana said “you cannot ask me to tell him what to do,” but also acknowledged the absence of the commission of inquiry idea or accountability from Ban's report.

  Quintana said he had met with Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar -- not with Ban, who will however be in his office in New York on October 22 -- and discussed not only the November 7 election but also “justice and accountability.”

  Since Nambiar has played a role in Ban setting up a purported Panel of Experts into war crimes in Sri Lanka which has no investigative powers, no spokesperson and no presence, Inner City Press asked Quintana is this is what he has in mind for Myanmar.

Quintana said he has in mind the “finding of facts” -- expliclitly NOT what Ban's Sri Lanka panel is about -- but then diplomatically said that perhaps the Sri Lanka panel is a model.

  He also after Inner City Press asked about the plight of the Rohingya diplomatically thanked the Myanmar military government for cooperating and allowing him to “meet political prisoners” -- but not Aung San Suu Kyi.

   Inner City Press asked for Quintana's view on multinational corporations' engagements with the Myanmar junta, including Total, Toyota and South Korea's Daewoo. Quintana said that corporations might become complicit.

Quintana on Oct 21 on accountability, Ban Ki-moon not shown

Ban Ki-moon when he was South Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that a Daewoo pipeline across Myanmar was a “win win” proposition. Inner City Press has asked Ban's Spokesperson's Office to get from Ban whether he still views it this way, without avail. Watch this site.

* * *

As Myanmar Bars Foreign Press, UN Empties “Good Offices” for Other DPA Use

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- As Myanmar moves to bar foreign journalists and elections observers from its impending November 7 polling, the UN on Monday churned out a prepared statement that did not directly engage with the exclusion of the media.

Inner City Press asked acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq to confirm or deny that staffers of the UN's “Good Office” on Myanmar operation, set up by General Assembly resolution, have been even at this critical juncture been redeployed to other non-Burma work within the UN Department of Political Affairs, despite being in GA voted budget lines not supposed to be changed by DPA.

  Haq said he wouldn't comment on “budget lines,” but said that the prepared statement showed that Good Offices work continued. That wasn't the question, of course. And the UN's Myanmar and other such statements are largely cut and paste.

  Inner City Press is informed by well placed sources that the Department of Political Affairs under B. Lynn Pascoe had “made a play” for staffers of the UN Good Offices on Myanmar, “under-occupied” with Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambair "monlighting" in the position since the departure for Darfur of Ibrahim Gambari. These staffers have been assigned work for Tamrat Samuel of DPA.

Vijay Nambiar & Lynn Pascoe, "Good Offices" power play not shown

  There is a problem, however, the sources say. The Myanmar office is not directly under DPA, and its resources, specifically approved by the General Assembly, are not supposed to be redeployed in this way. It is unclear why Haq feels it is legitimate, in this context, to minimize and refuse to answer “budget line” questions.

  These are questions of separation of powers -- and of coddling a dictatorship. Under Ban Ki-moon, these sources say, the GA's Myanmar office has been turning into a husk. Watch this site.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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