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On Myanmar, IMF Cites "Localized Impact of Rakhine Crisis" and Investor Sentiment, Not Rohingya, UNfailing

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 – Amid the killing and displacement of Rohingya from and in Myanmar's Rakhine State, on November 10 UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres citing a resolution pending in the General Assembly's Third Committee which would request him "to appoint a special envoy on Myanmar." On December 26, after it was finally approved on Christmas Eve, Inner City Press asked the UN when Guterres will act. In due course, whatever that means. As of March 28, he has done nothing. And on March 28 the International Monetary Fund issued a statement on Myanmar, referring several times to the "humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State" but not to the Rohingya, or Bangladesh. From the statement: While the direct economic impacts of the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state have been largely localized, the social costs and full impacts of the crisis are yet unfolding. Over the medium term, growth is expected to gradually pick up toward the estimated potential rate of about 7.0 percent to 7.5 percent, reflecting continued large FDI inflows and an improvement in public investment spending and efficiency.

"Risks are tilted to the downside. The banking sector needs to adjust to important new prudential regulations after a period of rapid credit growth. The humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state could affect development finance and investor sentiment. Executive Directors welcomed the rebound in Myanmar’s economy and its favorable long-term growth prospects. However, downside risks have increased, including from the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. Expressing their strong concern, Directors highlighted the need for early and tangible progress toward peace and regional inclusion, to improve conditions in affected areas and to realize Myanmar’s strong potential for inclusive growth. Directors also called for a second wave of reforms to help sustain Myanmar’s economic transition and growth take-off. They commended the release of Myanmar’s Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP) and recommended that the MSDP be expanded to address reform sequencing and regional disparities, including the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State." We'll have more on this. Titular president U Htin Kyaw has resigned "to take a rest," with U Win Myint slated as a replacement - both as proxies for Aung San Suu Kyi. Still, might the UN use this as an excuse for Guterres' inaction on the envoy? On March 21 at the UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Myanmar, the President, as you may have seen, has resigned for… reportedly due to health reasons, Mr. Htin… H-t-i-n K-y-a-w.  And I wanted to know whether this… who is the UN's interlocutor on… it seems like it's been a long time on the envoy, so it probably seem… would indicate that the… on the Government side, there's some thoughts of what the name should be.  Does this change at the very… at the top or at least the titular top of the Government in Myanmar have any impact on the process?

Spokesman:  Well, the process is ongoing, and we consult with various parties.  Obviously, as with the dispatch of any envoy, country-specific envoy, there are discussions that are had with the Government… the Government in place, whatever Government that is, and I have no reason to believe that that's not going on there.

Inner City Press: And I… I’ve seen that the Secretary-General met twice pretty recently with Kevin Rudd, including one quite recently.  And I wanted to know, is there any readout on that?  His name was at one point floated.  I don't know if he would take this job or I don't know if he's being considered for it, but what's the… especially with two meetings so close to each other…

Spokesman:  No, I'm aware of the meetings…

Inner City Press: …[inaudible] request of Mr.  Rudd?

Spokesman:  I'm aware of the… of the rumours, which are… which are exactly that.  Mr. Rudd, I think, has an appointment here at the Japan Society, if I'm not…

Inner City Press: Asia.

Spokesman:  …mis… the Asia Society, my mistake.  But there is no specific readout of that meeting." Why not? Meanwhile, o
n Myanmar, Japan's Abe government's ambiguous position was highlighted back in October 2017 when UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee urged the country, still then on the UN Security Council, not to block a Council resolution, here. Now, after pro-Abe media Sankei Shimbun claimed breathlessly from Singapore via Hideki Yoshimura that its Myanmar sources assured it Rohingya would begin returning from Bangladesh on March 16, the government has in fact built chain link fences to prevent such returns. As initially with an Okinawa do-gooder story, until now no retraction.
Instead, opting for now instead like Mayu Uetsuka of Sankei Shimsun, here, to jump on the U.S. gun control bandwagon, while having ignored the UN itself promoting and advertising automatic weapons, tanks and even rocket launchers in its 1-B basement. (Inner City Press exclusive series, here, video here.) Are these glaring omissions known to correspondents Hiroyuki Kano, Krose Etsuia and even, in London, Okabe Shinbun? To say nothing of actually detained Tatsuya Kato who at least then defended press freedom, with Jun Kurosawa UNdeclared? On March 19, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujrric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask yoy about a Myanmar-proposed law and international NGOs [non-governmental organizations] which would regulate, it purports not only international NGOs but at the UN, to the degree that it's separate from that.  I know that OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] sometimes coordinates with NGOs that have these concerns, but it would regulate the UN, as well.  Is the UN aware of this law?  Do they believe it would apply to them?  And what's the status — and I'm sorry to ask you this again, but — of the envoy that was discussed in September and fully mandated in December? Spokesman:  There's no update on the envoy.  The discussions are ongoing.  I mean no updates to announce.  The discussions are obviously very much ongoing.  We're aware of the law.  You know, the presence of the UN is regulated through the Charter and through international obligations that Member States have.  But, obviously, I've… we've seen the law as being debated, but I will leave it at that principled response." Yeah, principled. On March 8, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: if you have any comment.  The US Holocaust Memorial Museum stripped a human rights award from Aung San Suu Kyi based on her response or… or lack of response in the Rohingya.  I wanted to know if you have any kind of, I guess, comment on… on that and also what the status of the envoy… many Member States now, whenever the issue comes up, are saying they urge António Guterres to move forward? Spokesman:  Consultations are being had.  And I have no particular comment on the decision… the, as we say, the sovereign decision of the US Holocaust Museum." For envoy a name in circulation, rightly or wrongly, is Kevin Rudd of Australia. It would be quite a come-down, since as Inner City Press reported (as picked up in Australia), Rudd tried for UN Secretary General in 2016. But hope springs eternal, and Rudd always tries to show a sympathy to China's position. What might he think of the China Energy Fund Committee bribery scandal which Inner City Press, alone among the UN press corps, is covering? This week Rudd met with Guterres, but there has been no read-out (we've asked). We'll have more on this.  In DC, Senator Ed Markey said passage of his amendment to the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act (S.2060) that strengthens accountability measures for sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated against the Rohingya by Burma’s military. More than 600,000 Rohingya civilians, mostly women and children, have fled Burma into Bangladesh to escape violence. “We need to bridge the impunity gap that re-victimizes Rohingya survivors and fails to hold Burma’s military officers accountable,” said Senator Markey. “Widespread sexual violence suggests that these crimes were not incidental but a calculated tool of terror. The international community must send a strong signal that militaries cannot use sexual violence as a tool of war.” A copy of Senator Markey’s amendment can be found here." On February 1, new Security Council president Kuwait said there will be no Council trip there this month. From Washington, US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) said, "The depravity in Burma today is absolutely gut-wrenching. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are known by many as brave and decent reporters. They remain in jail on absurd charges for one reason only: they were doing their jobs. And just this morning, we learned that at least five new mass graves have been uncovered near a former Rohingya village in Rakhine State. The village itself appears to have been totally destroyed. This is just one of countless atrocities that have been carried out by Burma’s military and security services against the Rohingya Muslims in recent months. The ethnic cleansing must stop. The U.S. House has called for action against those responsible and is looking for the administration to follow through.” Back on January 11, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  In Myanmar, you may have seen that the… the commander-in-chief of the military has basically admitted that… that these bodies that were found in something called Indin were, in fact, killed by the army and… and Buddhist villagers, he described it as.  So, it's a rare admission.  So, I wanted to know, one, what's the UN's reaction to it?  And, two, if… what steps the Secretary-General has taken on the GA's [General Assembly], you know, mandate, I guess, to have…? Spokesman:  On the… when we have something to announce on the envoy, we will.  We've heard and understood the instructions in the General Assembly.  I think what is important is that those individuals who are responsible for perpetrating these heinous acts be brought to justice." Yeah - like the UN has been brought to justice in Haiti and elsewhere. On January 10, the Myanmar
military's commander in chief, Min Aung Hlaing, has said that villagers and security forces killed “10 Bengali terrorists” found in Rakhine state's Inn Din village last year. “The army will take charge of those who are responsible for the killings and who broke the rules of engagement. This incident happened because ethnic Buddhist villagers were threatened and provoked by the terrorists.” Shades of Sri Lanka. On January 3, Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: given the budget's inclusion of funds for the naming of a Myanmar envoy.  Has the Secretary-General taken any steps? What's the timeline for actually naming such a person? Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we don't, at this stage, have an announcement to make about the naming of a person.  Once we do, we will.  But now that the budget has been agreed, we will comply with it and proceed with the naming of an official." When? Tellingly, when Inner City Press asked Guterres' Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the widely circulated Guardian story quoting "The meeting with the state counselor was a cordial courtesy call of approximately 45 minutes that was, unfortunately, not substantive in nature,” Patten wrote to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres," Dujarric told Inner City Press is he "not aware of letter. Will check." Here's the exchange: "ICP 12/27 - 1: On Myanmar, confirm or deny the existence and separately content of the reported letter from Pramila Patten to the Secretary General last week informing him that Aung San Suu Kyi refused to address in her meeting with the UN envoy the detailed allegations of rapes by the Myanmar Army, and what the Secretary General intends to do about it (the refusal, and the rapes). NOT AWARE OF LETTER. WILL CHECK." With no answer on January 2, Inner City Press asked Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: could I ask one another thing that I asked last week, which was this reported letter by Pramila Patten of the… the… the Special Adviser on sexual violence and conflict.  I'm sure you saw the story quoting from a letter from her to the Secretary-General, saying that Aung San Suu Kyi refused to… to address the issue of alleged rapes by the Myanmar army of Rohingya.  And so, one… somehow last week, they couldn't… you couldn't confirm that even such a letter was written.  Did she write a letter at the end of her mission, that's one question.  And the second one is, can you confirm what The Guardian reported as the content, which is that Aung San Suu Kyi didn't engage whatsoever on these serious allegations? Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're in touch with her office.  Once we have any information from her about her Myanmar mission and what she had to say about Aung San Suu Kyi's actions, we'll let you know. Inner City Press: But, do you have the… I mean, did she write a letter, or is The Guardian wrong? Deputy Spokesman:  I can't confirm that at this point.  We're in touch with her office." Nothing. On December 20, Inner City Press asked Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for Guterres who is going on vacation until January 2, about Myanmar's most recent move. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: Myanmar is blocking the Yang… Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on human rights, and I'm wondering whether the Secretary-General… what he thinks about it, whether anyone in the UN system is pushing back. Spokesman:  I think it's regrettable.  We feel that all countries should cooperate with the human rights mechanisms.  Special Rapporteurs, as you know, are independent of the Secretary-General, but we do hope to see the decision reversed." Hope without action is just hot air. Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres MSF says "At least 9,000 members of the ethnic Rohingya minority died—most of them from violence—in Rakhine State, Myanmar, between August 25 and September 24, according to surveys conducted in refugee settlement camps in Bangladesh. Of the reported deaths, 71.7 percent were caused by violence. Using the most conservative estimates, at least 6,700 Rohingya are estimated to have been killed, including at least 730 children under the age of five. The survey findings demonstrate that the Rohingya people have been targeted; they are the clearest indication yet of the widespread violence that began August 25, when the Myanmar military, police and local militias launched 'clearance operations' in Rakhine in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. Since then, more than 647,000 Rohingya (according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group as of December 12) have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh." On December 12 in the UN Security Council meeting on Myanmar, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “We cannot allow more time to pass. There is no denying that these atrocities, including ethnic cleansing, have taken place.... Before they can return, Burmese authorities must create an environment that is safe. There must be a cultural change, which only Burmese leadership can do. While we are hearing promises from Burmese authorities, we must see action.” What about from Guterres, who too long defended the pro-military stance of his representative Lok-Dessallien? Where in the UN is she working now? Inner City Press has asked, but has not been told. Sexual Violence and Conflict envoy Patten is set to visit Myanmar December 14-16, while Guterres sells himself on Wall Street. On December 6, the US House of Representatives the House of Representatives passed H. Con. Res. 90, which condemns the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya and calls for an end to the attacks and immediate restoration of humanitarian access to Rakhine State. During debate of the measure on the House floor Tuesday, Chairman Royce said, 'For decades, the Burmese government has systematically oppressed the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living in the Rakhine State of Burma. Importantly, this resolution not only condemns the attacks against civilians by Burma’s security services led by General Min Aung Hlaing, it also reaffirms the crimes committed against the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing. State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the de facto leader of Burma, must make it a top priority to provide for the safety of those in Burma, including the Rohingya.'" And still, no UN envoy, after Lok Dessallien. On November 22 US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, "it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. Those responsible for these atrocities must be held accountable. The United States continues to support a credible, independent investigation to further determine all facts on the ground to aid in these processes of accountability. We have supported constructive action on the Rakhine crisis at the UN Security Council and in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee. The United States will also pursue accountability through U.S. law, including possible targeted sanctions." After a delay attributable to Guterres' Secretariat, the Committee on November 16 after speeches by Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Somalia, Egypt and the US on the one hand and Myanmar, Belarus, Russia and China (against), a "we're not participating" by Iran and a point of order by Syria, approved the resolution 135 yes, 10 against, 26 abstentions. On the day it was scheduled to be voted on, November 14, Guterres' Secretariat had not prepared the required "Program Budget Implication" document, akin to a CBO score in the US Congress, and therefore the vote could not be held. Inner City Press is informed it will be held on November 16 at 10 am; after asking it's just been told the PBI document is now online here. On November 15, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  it's Myanmar related.  It was said when… on… one, if there's any update on getting a… a formalised Resident Coordinator.  And also it was said that Ms. [Renata] Lok-Dessallien, around whom there was some controversy in terms of dealing with the Rohingya issue, it was said that she's come back to headquarters to assume another role.  And so I asked… I've asked once before, but I just want to know, what is that role? Is it going to be as Resident Coordinator in another country? Is it for DPA [Department of Political Affairs]? What is the role? Deputy Spokesman:  "Well, we don't have anything to announce at present.  When we do, we will." So where is Lok? What's she getting paid for? Inner City Press went to the November 14 noon briefing and asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric why Guterres' Secretariat had failed in this way. Dujarric had no answer, nor if the past is any guide will he get or provide an answer. He didn't answer, for the second day in a row, detailed Press questions about Guterres' deputy Amina J. Mohammed signing thousands of certificates for endangered rosewood already sold and shipped to China. The draft resolution, ready since October, "Requests the Secretary-General to continue to provide his good offices and to pursue his discussions relating to Myanmar, involving all relevant stakeholders and including the concerns addressed in herein, and in this regard to appoint a special envoy on Myanmar." We'll have more on this. On November 6 the UN Security Council adopted a non-binding Presidential Statement (here) rather than the earlier discussed draft resolution. Afterward Myanmar's representative denounced even the Statement. Then at the stakeout, Inner City Press asked UK Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen what he made the Myanmar representative's statement: was he representing Aung San Suu Kyi or the military? Allen replied that what matters is what Myanmar does. French Ambassador Francois Delattre, responding to a solicited question in French, said that Presidential Statements are of the same value as resolutions. We'll have more on this. Inner City Press on October 30 asked Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK, the UN Security Council's penholder on Myanmar, about the then-draft resolution. Now on November 6 Rycroft's deputy Jonathan Allen has confirmed that there will be no resolution, only a non-binding Presidential Statement to be read-out on the afternoon of November 6. Periscope video here; Inner City Press also asked Allen about the blockade of Yemen by the UK-supported Saudi-led coalition, into which Allen says inquiries are being made. From the UK's October 30 transcript: Inner City Press: On Myanmar [Burma], what’s the progress on the resolution? When do you think you might put it to a vote? Amb Rycroft: "We’re making good, careful progress with our Council colleagues on that. We want to keep everyone together if we possibly can. This is a difficult issue for many of us. We are determined, though, to step up, and we see the atrocious situation of the Rohingya in Rakhine state, and for those who have fled into Bangladesh... we now need to work carefully to get that into a resolution if there is the appetite for that." When Yanghee Lee, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, took questions on October 26, Inner City Press asked her about the government not approving a replacement for UN Resident Coordinator Renata Lok-Dessallien, who is now leaving at the end of October. Ms. Lee confirmed that the government has rejected a UN Assistant Secretary General being sent, not wanting that special attention. Later on October 26, speaking of UN Security Council proposals on Myanmar at a quiet film event hosted by one of the too-quiet proponents, Yanghee Lee was quoted going beyond what she said in the UN: "#UN Special Rapporteur on #Myanmar: #SecurityCouncil needs to adopt strong #Burma resolution- appeals to #China #Japan& #Russia not to block." Well, on November 2 Rycroft confirmed what Inner City Press had heard: the draft resolution is quietly being down-shifted to a mere Presidential Statement, non binding. On November 2, before heading out of New York City for the so-called Finnish Workshop with the six incoming Council members, Rycroft said: "At the moment, it’s still a draft resolution. It could turn into a PRST if that’s the way to keep the Security Council together, and if we were to do that, it would be in order to keep the Security Council together. There would be benefit in having a single, united message quickly to the authorities in Myanmar, and if the way to do that is to turn what is a strong, balanced text into a PRST then we will do that." As to Russia, its foreign ministry spokesperson  Maria Zakharova said, "we are ready for a constructive discussion of further steps of the UNSC on this issue." And given China's recent absention on extending the mandate of the Syria chemical weapons JIM investigative mechanism while Russia vetoed and Bolivia voted no, many are left wondering about... Japan, as referenced by Yanghee Lee. While some might mechanically cite rifts between Japan and Yanghee Lee's South Korea (see for example Japan opposing registration at UNESCO of "comfort women" documentation, Inner City Press story here), there's more to be said about Japan, Myanmar and the Rohingya. Watch this site. In the UN Press Briefing Room, Yangee Lee on October 26 told Inner City Press that a person already in the country could be interim Resident Coordinator and that while a new UN Special Adviser might be necessary, it would be important who that person is. Some might ask, why not her? Two hours later on October 26 Inner City Press aske UN spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Myanmar and the UN's presence there, the Special Rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, in a press conference this morning, you know, acknowledged that the UN had asked for an Assistant Secretary-General to replace Ms. [Renata] Lok-Dessallien and had been rejected by the Government.  She's… would be in a position to know.  So, I take… given that, can you say, one, why hasn't… why… you know, can… will you confirm it as a Secretariat representative? And where does it stand… given that we're now 26 October and the… the Resident Coordinator is leaving by the end of the month, where does it stand in terms of having a replacement? What did Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman leave the country… what was his understanding in terms of who would be running the country team in less than a week? Deputy Spokesman:  I do expect, in the coming days, we'll be able to have an announcement about who will be the Officer-in-Charge of our operations in Myanmar.  We're not at that stage yet, but, like I said, I do expect to have an announcement shortly, and we'll have the details at this point. Inner City Press: Given that she's now said that an ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] was proposed… I'd asked you about Mr. Magdy of… of UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], whether he was the one, but it seems like… do you have a problem confirming that?  She's also a UN system official or Special Rapporteur.  Is she wrong? Deputy Spokesman:  I'm not going to dispute the words of the Special Rapporteur.  We don't go into the discussions that we're having on various positions.  Once we have an announcement to make, like I said, we'll make it.  We're not at that point just yet. Yanghee Lee directed Inner City Press to the Flickr photographs on her mandate's website; they are here, including the toddler she described in her closing statement to the Third Committee on October 25. This is one side of the UN on human rights; here is another: the UN delivered a threat to Inner City Press to “review” it accreditation on Friday afternoon at 5 pm. The UN official who signed the letter, when Inner City Press went to ask about the undefined violation of live-streaming Periscope video at a photo op by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, had already left, minutes after sending the threat. This comes two days after Inner City Press asked Guterres about the UN inaction on threatened genocide in Cameroon, and the UN claimed Guterres hadn't heard the 15-second long question.

  It also comes after Alison Smale the head of the Department of Public Information which would “review” Inner City Press' accreditation has ignored three separate petitions from Inner City Press in the six weeks she has been in the job, urging her to remove restrictions on Inner City Press' reporting which hinder its coverage of the UN's performance in such crises as Yemen, Kenya, Myanmar, and the Central African Republic where Guterres travels next week, with Smale's DPI saying its coverage of the trip will be a test of its public relations ability. But the UN official who triggered the complaint is Maher Nasser, who filled in for Smale before she arrived.

UN's Letter Threatening to Review Inner City Press' Accreditation for Audio Report While Staking Out on Cam... by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

His complaint is that audio of what he said to Inner City Press as it staked out the elevators in the UN lobby openly recording, as it has for example with Cameroon's Ambassador Tommo Monthe, here, was similarly published

A UN “Public Information” official is complaining about an article, and abusing his position to threaten to review Inner City Press' accreditation. The UN has previously been called out for targeting Inner City Press, and for having no rules or due process. But the UN is entirely UNaccountable, impunity on censorship as, bigger picture, on the cholera it brought to Haiti. And, it seems, Antonio Guterres has not reformed or reversed anything. This threat is from an official involved in the last round of retaliation who told Inner City Press on Twitter to be less "negative" about the UN - amid inaction on the mass killing in Cameroon - and who allowed pro-UN hecking of Inner City Press' questions about the cholera the UN brought to Haiti and the Ng Lap Seng /John Ashe UN bribery scandal which resulted in six guilty verdicts. We'll have more on this.


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