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As Suu Kyi Declared Guilty, UN Has No Noon Briefing, Ban Rests from Fruitless Trip

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 11, updated -- As Aung San Suu Kyi was pronounced guilty in Myanmar and sentenced to at least 18 more months of house arrest, to keep her from involvement in the 2010 elections under a pro-military constitution, the UN in New York didn't even have its normal noon press briefing scheduled.

  On July 28, Inner City Press asked Ban's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq, "the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ended with the Government or the judge rejecting a witness from the Foreign Ministry. The trial is now over and the verdict is expected on Friday. Does the Secretariat or the Secretary-General have anything to say in this regard?" Haq repied, "we may have something further to say once there is a verdict." Well, even past noon on August 11, we're still waiting.

    The UN Security Council has announced emergency consultations for 3 p.m. on August 11 -- see below.

  While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently visited Myanmar with a group of handpicked scribes for a photo op with General Than Shwe and received negative reviews for not even getting a meeting with Suu Kyi, he is now on vacation when her sentence is announced.

  On July 31, after it was known that Suu Kyis's verdict would be announced on Tuesday, August 11, Ban's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq told the Press of

"my favorite note for the day: I know a number of you are going on holidays next month. For now, we are expecting that, over the month of August, we will provide noon briefings three days out of every week -- namely, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we don’t expect to brief for now. Of course, if events require otherwise, we might go back to daily briefings. But if things remain calm, I hope you appreciate the slightly more mellow August schedule."

  Even on the eve of the verdict being announced, the UN sent out at Media Alert that "there will be no noon briefing on Tuesday" August 11. Some surmise that the UN's Ban Administration doesn't want to answer any questions about whatever canned statement it issues, and about the fruit of Ban's stage managed trip.

UN's Ban and his scribes on way to Myanmar, now no noon briefing scheduled

  About the Constitution, following Inner City Press' report over the weekend over the August 7 visit to the UN of three senior Burmese exile leaders, it received the following Constitutional analysis:

"You say that Sein Win says that under the Constitution the Commander in Chief  appoints 25% of the seats. He can only appoint serving military personnel, and under Article 232 j (ii) of the Constitution they retain their military ranks

It is not the C-in-C "who must have a military background". You mean the President. However, what the Constitution actually says in the English version - official, but not authoritative - at Article 59 (d) is: "shall be well acquainted with the affairs of the Union such as political, administrative, economic and military." You might feel, as I do, that this automatically excludes all military men from being President because they have, believe me, absolutely no knowledge of economic affairs - just look at their record over the years! Their record on political and administrative affairs is also unimpressive. Suu Kyi is at least the daughter of a general.

So the Constitution doesn't only devote "25% of the seats to people with military backgrounds", they are military men. Of the other 75% who are elected, most of these will have military backgrounds as well. So of the 440 - 110 nominated (military) and 330 elected ("civilian") - representatives in the People's Assembly (which combines with the Nationalities Assembly to make the Union Parliament), it would be safe to say that at least 350 are bound to be military and ex-military, just as most of the Central Executive Committee of Suu Kyi's NLD are ex-military (General Aung Shwe, General Tin Oo, Col Maung Lwin, Col Lun Tin and so on and so forth.) One day these 350 will want to change the Constitution - they only need 330 votes.

Which brings us back to the main problem in Myanmar, which is that the State is the Military, and the Military is the State and it is not all that easy to separate the two."

   The August 11 decision on the case of Aung San Suu Kyi makes military dominance of Burma all too clear. And where is the UN?

Update: The UN Security Council has announced emergency consultations for 3 p.m. on August 11.

Update of 3:25 p.m. -- Western spokespeople outside the Council tell the Press they are pushing for a Presidential Statement, but might have to settle for a press statement or even less (what's now called remarks to the press). China's Deputy Permanent Representative and charge d'Affaires Liu strode into the Council with his political adviser. U.S. Perm Rep Susan Rice stopped and made a statement, but went in as a reporter tried to ask a question. Her office emphasizes: she will speak -- and take questions? -- elsewhere in New York on August 12. Watch this site.

Update of 4:16 p.m. -- Council president for August John Sawers emerged to say that some delegations have asked to send the U.S. draft to their capital, therefore there will be no outcome today. France's Deputy Perm Rep La Croix came and said much the same thing, adding that the 18 month sentence appears designed to keep ASSK from participating in the 2010 elections. Inner City Press asked for an update in France's move for additional EU sanctions. La Croix confirmed and said these would not be targeted at civilians. Question: would they let French companies continue to profit from Myanmar?

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At UN, Burmese Exile Figures Denounce Nuclear and Constitution Reports, No Team Ban Meeting

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 8 -- Days before the military government in Myanmar will announce its verdict on democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, three exiled Burmese leaders came to the UN in New York and told the Press of a "Proposal for National Reconciliation." Inner City Press asked "prime minister in exile" Sein Win about the Constitution that was pushed through in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, and under which the UN is reportedly considering working with the regime on a 2010 election.

  Sein Win said that the under the constitution, the Commander in Chief, who must have a military background, appoints 25% of the seats. Since the Constitution can't be amended with less than 75% of votes, he said, the military essentially has a veto over any amendments.

   Inner City Press asked about the reports of North Korea assisted tunnels and nuclear developments in Myanmar. Foreign minster in exile U Bo Hla-Tint said that the reports are worrying, and that the UN Security Council should take them seriously. Ban Ki-moon, when Inner City Press asked him this week about the reports, replied that he had no information, no substantial information.

   Previously, Ban's envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari told Inner City Press that the Rohingya, Muslims so mistreated in Myanmar they take to the seas, facing further abuse in Thailand and elsewhere, are not within his mandate. Inner City Press asked the trio who their proposal deals with Rohingya. "They are citizens of Burma," said NCUB General Secretary (in exile) U Maung Maung.

  He added that Burma does not need a nuclear reactor, on which he said Russia is helping. We already sell gas to Thailand, he said. "Burma does not look forward to being a nuclear state."

UN's Ban with "former armed groups" -- who refuse to go the government's bidding on the border, per trio

   The trio was not able to meet with Ban's envoy, Ibrahim Gambari. Later, several Ban advisers moaned that "we're going to get demarched on Monday, why did you not receive, etcetera." The Ban advisers said of the Burmese trio that they are "nice guys" but "getting older and older" and "desperate." A wire service journalist opined that his Asian bureau opined that "the generals will never listen to them." It was, then, sad. But heartfelt. We'll have more on this.

Footnote: The August 7 press conference was organized and promoted by Independent Diplomat, which also at the UN pushes issues of climate change and small states and Western Sahara, among others. On the latter, a UN staffer recently marveled at Polisario's representative in Australia signing deals with Australian energy companies for some future date, while the UN and its Office of Legal Affairs has strikingly declined to comment on complaints that Morocco is illegal moving to exploit energy and other resources.

  The National Coalition Government of Burma press release, seemingly referring to U.S. lobbying rules, says that "more information is available at the Department of Justice." Might DOJ have information or views on the legality of Morocco's exploitation of Western Sahara? Or might the War on Terror, even under Obama, still seem more important?

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On Myanmar's Nuclear Plans, UN's Ban Declines Comment, Split on Constitution

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 5 -- Emerging from a meeting with his Group of Friend on Myanmar, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was asked by Inner City Press what he makes of reports that Myanmar is developing a nuclear reactor or even, in an early stage, nuclear weapons with the assistance of North Korea and Russia. "I do not have any information on that," Mr. Ban replied, "therefore I am not able to comment on that."

   Afterwards, a senior Ban advisor told Inner City Press that Mr. Ban had been prepared to answer the question, and that the planned if-asked talking point was that the UN does not have an substantial or verifiable information, but that if it is true, it is a matter of grave concern as this is precisely the moment the international community should be driving toward non-proliferation. Oh that Ban had said that.

It was also explained to Inner City Press that if it had managed to ask if Ban favors modification of the country's constitution, pushed through in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which devotes 25% of seats to people with military backgrounds, Ban probably would not have answer. "The Group of Friends is divided on that," the source explained.

UN's Ban in Yangon, nuclear plans not shown

  He argued against the theory that the timing of Wednesday's meeting was meant to allow Ban, before he set off on vacation, to speak his piece Myanmar. Rather, he said, some thing that Myanmar blinked on July 31 and put off the Aung San Suu Kyi verdict.

  With another statement, perhaps they'll think hard about what verdict to impose. But again, Inner City Press asks, not without sarcasm, does that mean Ban questions the separation in Myanmar between the judicial and executive - or military - branches of government? We're not commenting on that, a UN official answered. Nor about the Constitution. 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.

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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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