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On Myanmar, Japan "Disappointed" by Election Law, But Not on Council Agenda

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 5 -- Myanmar is not on the UN Security Council's April work plan presented to the Press on Monday by Japan's Yukio Takasu, this month's Council President.

  Given the professed interest of Council members the U.S., France, UK as well as Japan, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Takaso what the Council or Japan will do, following the National League for Democracy's decision to boycott this year's election, from which Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners are excluded. Video here, from Minute 36:56, non-verbatim transcript below.

  Ambassador Takasu said "we were hoping the general election would be inclusive, meaning that people are entitled to participate. It is up to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi or some individual to participate or not. But with this legal impediment, it cannot be considered inclusive." Video here, from Minute 38:50.

  "We were very disappointed" with the electoral law, Takasu continued, saying this was communicated by Foreign Minister Okada to either senior Secretariat staff, senior Myanmar leaders or both, the former to the latter.

  With Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yet to replace former Myanmar envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who left the position in December, some wonder at the UN's and international community's commitment.

Japan's Takasu and US Wolff, Myanmar on agenda not shown

 Others say that the U.S. Mission to the UN favors leaving interim envoy Vijay Nambiar in place until after the boycotted elections.

  Could this be similar to the US's strange acceptance of Sudan's flawed election, on which it has requested a Council briefing this week, while on the ground Scott Gration praises it? And given Japan's initial disinterest in election flaws and violence in Iran, how seriously can we take its commitment to an inclusive and credible election in Myanmar? We'll see, this month. Watch this site.

Non-verbatim transcript by ICP's UnFriends On Myanmar of Ambassador Takasu's response to Inner City Press' Myanmar question:

Takasu ... There is very broad support of the role of the Secretary-General's good offices, and the message that the Secretary-General has been conveying to Myanmar's leaders and government has the full support of all of us. Myanmar has been making progress in democratization ... but now at this moment, this general election, they promised to do it this year. It is an extremely important occasion. So it's not only that it be free and fair ... but it should be inclusive and credible. I think there is broad support for that. What has happened since the publication of the electoral law including this disqualification of certain category of people. ...

It will not be a good basis for an inclusive and credible election. As far as Japan is concerned, we regret very much, because at a very senior level we have been talking very closely and we were hoping that this forthcoming general election would be not only free and fair but inclusive. Inclusive means that at least they are entitled to participate. ... However because of the legal impediment ... I don't think this is inclusive.

We are therefore very disappointed and this disappointment has been communicated very straightly from FM Okada himself, and that was conveyed to the very senior people in the Myanmar leadership. ...

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At UN, As Friends on Myanmar Calculate Their Share, Ban Splits Difference

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 25 -- Following the closed door meeting on Myanmar by the UN Secretary General's "Group of Friends" on Thursday morning, S-G Ban Ki-moon took two questions from the Press. One of his advisors told Inner City Press that both the United States and France have become "more nuanced," with only the UK still beating the drum about what they call Burma.

  He said that donors like Norway and Australia and Japan are trying to "recalibrate." He snidely pointed out that on roads outside of Yangon, the construction equipment is "all from Caterpillar," the U.S. firm.

  Meanwhile, India's Tata now plans a truck factory in Myanmar. India is said to be concerned that if they don't invest, Myanmar will become an economic colony of China. Money is talking. 

  Ban was flanked by his interim envoy to Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar and performed under the watchful eyes of diplomats from Friends of Myanmar who urge a hands-off approach. One of these told Inner City Press, before Ban began, that he would mention something about "that lady." Inner City Press was about to say, "The Lady?" but then asked Ban about it. See below.

Last Friends on Myanmar meeting- of this one, no photos were allowed

 From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: Mr. Secretary-General, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said, she has actually encouraged the NLD not to register for the polls under the current laws. I wonder what do you think can happen between now and when a date is set. Would you view that as a fatal flaw to the election, if the NLD didn’t participate? And are you thinking of naming a more permanent successor to Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari to carry out the good offices? Some say that having an interim person may either reflect or be interpreted as a lack of commitment on the issue.

SG: If what she said is based on her genuine belief, based on the current situations, then we have to respect her decision. I’m not quite sure what the surrounding circumstances were as she made that statement. However, she is the leader of her party and when she said such decision then I think that should be respected. That depends upon how people will decide on that. As a matter of principle, as I have said repeatedly, publicly and privately to the Myanmar leadership, that this election should be fully open, transparent, inclusive and participatory and credible, and I told the Myanmar leadership that without full participation of all the people, including political prisoners, and particularly Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it may not be regarded as credible and inclusive. Therefore all the process and development, we have to carefully monitor. And about the appointment of Mr. Gambari’s position: at this time I have designated my Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Vijay Nambiar as ad interim Special Advisor until such time when I will be able to find a Special Advisor for that post.

Inner City Press: There was at least one report that you proposed a name to Myanmar and they turned it down. Maybe the report was wrong?

SG: No. I have never proposed any names.

   The purveyor of the report was the only other journalist to ask Ban a Myanmar question. Before he did, a UN Security Officer asked him to move away from the meeting room. He maintained to Inner City Press that Nambiar traveled to Myanmar to deliver Ban's letter, and that Ban has received a response that emphasizes Myanmar's sovereignty.

  Inner City Press asked at the noon briefing for confirmation that a response had been received, but the spokesman merely said he would look into it. 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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