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On Myanmar, UN Official Predicts April 18 Ban Visit, US Softens Too, Gas as Lubricant

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, March 16 -- On Myanmar, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is actively arranging a visit for just after the April 12 ASEAN meeting, most probably on April 18, a senior UN official told Inner City Press on Monday night. The official painted a rosy picture of recent actions by the military government of General Than Shwe, from his belated softening on the Muslim Rohingya population to his government's engagement with Indonesia on this refugee issue. The news on Myanmar is good, the official said, mirroring a shift in United States policy under Barack Obama.

   As Inner City Press reported from Washington last week, sources in the White House say that lobbying by the U.S. oil and gas industries has played a role in the Administration's signals that economic sanctions haven't been working in Myanmar, that it's time for more engagement -- read, U.S. business entry.  The question on Ban Ki-moon, these sources say, is whether a visit by him can be accompanied by enough face-saving concessions by Than Shwe to allow everyone to make money.

Myanmar's Than Shwe: "come to papa," in April

  The UN's spin of good news from Myanmar runs counter to a recent report on that military government's performance in the aftermath of last year's Cyclone Nargis. A Johns Hopkins report called for referral of Than Shwe and his senior officials to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. While some thought the indictment of Sudan's president might make referral of Myanmar more likely, the trend appears quite the opposite.

  "If you can't beat them, join them," appears to be the UN's approached to Myanmar. Or at least, "visit them." Watch this site.

Footnotes: The above-quoted UN official, left nameless in an abundance of respect, spoke at a surreal reception Monday night to commemorate the 1988 massacre by gas of Kurds in Halabja. The reception, sponsored by Iraq's Mission to the UN, features smoked salmon and jumbo shrimp on ice, as well as liquor as more than one reported noted. The Kurds are not fanatics, said one correspondent long stationed there, wondering if one day 9/11/01 will be celebrated like this, or even by mall sales.  One trusts that Burma's 8/8/88 will never be similarly toasted, despite the plentiful shrimp along the coast.

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.

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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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