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On Myanmar, As UN Dodges on Kachin IDPs, Nambiar Set Off on Quiet Diplomacy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 31 -- The UN has an envoy to Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, but his work is kept nearly secret and he has repeated refused to answer press questions at the UN.

On October 25 Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky

Inner City Press: Tomas Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur [on the situation of human rights in Myanmar] had noted that an offer was made by the UN system of aid to Myanmar to assist those being displaced by this fighting between the Government and the Kachin rebels, and says that the Government turned it down flat. So what I wonder is, is there any response by Ban Ki-moon or Vijay Nambiar, the envoy or good offices, to this rejection of help for people that — at least according to Ojea Quintana — are in need?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I don’t have anything for you, and I will obviously be able to check to see if there is anything, and indeed it may be something that Ms. Amos will be able to address tomorrow when she briefs you.

  When Valerie Amos, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, spoke on October 26, she said that generally the will not do anything beyond its mandate, in order to not get thrown out of a country.

  She was referring to Sudan -- apparently not having read the Darfur peacekeeping mission UNAMID's 2007 mandate regarding disarming the Janjaweed militia -- but this silence seems to be the approach of the UN or at least Nambiar with respect to Myanmar.

Nambiar previously reads from notes, Q&A & Kachin not shown

  On October 27, Nesirky in the opening to the UN noon briefing read out this statement:

"just to follow up on a question from the other day, regarding assistance to vulnerable people in northern Myanmar, we have asked our colleagues on the ground in Myanmar, who tell us that assistance is being delivered in reachable areas. Meanwhile, discussions continue to ensure that assistance reaches all those in need."

  Inner City Press immediately asked for clarification:

Inner City Press: what you just read out, does that mean over the border or within Myanmar itself?

Spokesperson Nesirky: It says what it says, Matthew — to reach all those in need.

Inner City Press: You said “reachable areas”, and the question was what [areas inside Myanmar].

Spokesperson: Well, there are two parts. It says that assistance is being delivered in reachable areas, and meanwhile discussions continue to ensure that assistance reaches all those in need. I don’t have anything beyond what I have just read out to you; otherwise, I would have read out a little bit more. What’s your next question?

Well the next question might be: what if anything is Nambiar going to do or at least say on this issue during his just stealthy begun trip to Myanmar? Watch this site.

Footnote: Nambiar has not only said no to repeated requests to give a press conference, he also rebuffs UN correspondents, and not only this one, in the type of informal Q&A most officials engage in.

  As Inner City Press and another UN correspondent from the Middle East recently waited -- in vain as it turned out -- for an in person read out of Middle East meeting by Ban Ki-moon and his staff, Nambiar came out of the elevator. The other correspondent said hello and began to ask a question. But Nambiar was gone. And now in Myanmar.

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