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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.

* * *

Gambari's Travails with Dictators Shown in UKUN Documents, Myanmar Now Darfur

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive, Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- The UN's Ibrahim Gambari was humiliated by the military rulers of Myanmar in 2009, internal documents of the UK Mission to the UN obtained by Inner City Press show. For example, of Gambari's 2009 trip the UK Mission wrote:

Gambari's visit on 26-27 June lasted a mere 32 hours. As on previous encounters, his programme was revealed to him on arrival. He was driven directly to the new capital, Naypyitaw, a 4-hour drive from Rangoon. A flight to Naypyitaw would have taken an hour.”

  Earlier more optimistic projections, including from the September 2009 meeting Group of Friends on Myanmar meeting (similar to the forthcoming meeting on the sidelines of this week's UN General Debate) came to very little. In 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest and her NLD party has been dissolved.

  Beyond showing Gambari's and the UN's subservience to Than Shwe and others in Burma's military regime, the documents will raise more questions about Gambari's questionable engagement with Sudan's Omar al Bashir government, from which Gambari as head of Darfur's UNAMID peacekeeping mission awaits permission before even sending troops to protect civilians.

  The Myanmar documents of the UK Mission to the UN and of the UK Mission in Yangon, which Inner City Press is exclusively putting online here, include

-a document thanking Italy and summarizing Gambari's visit in early 2009 during which a “meeting was attended by the members of the CEC but the Burmese/Myanmar authorities insisted on the exclusion of Win Tin;”

-a 2006 document in which Gambari “did acknowledge that there were now cross-border implications to the issue, as a result of the situation in the Kayin State;” and

-another 2006 document reciting Gambari's claim that “Than Shwe had pointed out the challenges facing the country, including the underdeveloped border areas, and the role of the military. Gambari commented that he thought Than Shwe would like to re-engage with the international community, and to turn a new page in relations with the UN.”

After these claims, and in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, the Than Shwe government took up to 25% of the UN's aid by means of scam foreign exchange conversion which the UN covered up, until exposed by Inner City Press.

UN's Ban & Gambari spin on Myanmar, UK docs and Darfur not shown

  Now with Gambari in Darfur, seeking permission before protecting civilians and reportedly angling to turn over to the government rebels who support Abdel Wahid Nur, the Myanmar documents provide a glimpse some say into the pro dictatorship leanings of a diplomat who formerly represented a military government at the UN.

 Read the Gambari documents here, and imagine what similar internal documents about the (in)actions of Gambari's successor Vijay Nambiar will show. Watch this site.

* * *

On Myanmar in Manhattan, Long Shot ICC Strategy Pitched, UN Ban Meeting & US Quote Followed by Inaction

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 17 -- Myanmar, or UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Group of Friends on Myanmar, have a place in the upcoming UN General Debate week. In the run-up, fifteen blocks from the UN, there was a film screening and panel discussion about the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma, held at the glitzy Paley Center for Media on September 16.

  Jody Williams of the Nobel Women's Initiative told an auditorium packed with well dress and well meaning New Yorkers that they should write to US Permanent Representative Susan Rice to thank her for President Obama's belated joining of a call for a international inquiry into war crimes in the country.

Some are dubious of this change in US position, after Obama first changed policy to one of engagement with the Than Shwe military government. It's easy for an unnamed US official to join a call for an international inquiry which will never happen, these skeptics say.

Inner City Press, which reports daily on and from the UN Security Council, can attest that the US these days rarely even tried to raise the issue of Myanmar. A senior US official who met with the Press earlier on September 16 confided not being briefed about the upcoming Group of Friends on Myanmar meeting.

The strategy propounded at the September 16 session was to press for Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Since Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, this could only be accomplished by a referral from the UN Security Council.

But it is crystal clear that any referral of Myanmar to the ICC would be vetoed by China, as well as Russia. Strangely in Thursday night's discussion, the word China wasn't once used.

Several attendees found it strange to be promoting a strategy that has no chance of success to such high profile and high income New Yorkers. But perhaps that's not the goal?

UN's Ban, Jody Williams, Thin Thin Aung et al on March 4, 2010, follow up not shown

After the session of the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma in March 2010, Jody Williams and several others including Thin Thin Aung of the Women's League of Burma met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. So far, no read out appears to have been given, nor follow up taken. Watch this site.

Footnote: before the panel discussion the movie “This Is My Witness: Women of Burma Break the Silence” was screened, and afterward Jody Williams urged moderator Pat Mitchell to do what she can to get it screened at Sundance. Also, a portion of “Burma Soldier” by Annie Sundberg was shown, in which a former Burmese military officer described the routine rape of ethnic women in Myanmar.

Reference was made to using UN Security Council resolution 1820, about sexual violence and conflict, which may be more promising that the UNSC to ICC strategy. But will UN sexual violence and conflict official Margot Wallstrom, asleep at the switch during the recent Congo rape scandal, do anything about Burma?

  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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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