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In Myanmar, UN Envoy's Tourism for a Cause, "Not a Popular Uprising," UN Rapporteur Says

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 1 -- As images from Myanmar of marching monks and soldiers' crack-down began Monday to fade from global consciences and screens, due to the cut-off of the Internet and the effectiveness of repression, UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari waited to see General Than Shwe. In the interim, according to the Burmese military, Gambari was taken on a little ride to Shan state. The UN refused Monday to confirm it. But as the reports of the trip multiplied, observers were left with the sense that Gambari agreed to see whatever the government wanted to show him, in order to meet Gen. Shwe. Is this selfless focus on obtaining concession from the regime? Or does it serve to legitimate the regime and let it off the hook? What is the UN thinking?

            One indication, it would seem, is the statement of the UN's own special rapporteur on Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. Inner City Press asked about this, at Monday's UN noon briefing:

Inner City Press: There's also a quote by the UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar, Pinheiro, saying, 'I would not qualify the protest as a popular uprising' and 'this is not the time to make threats.' Does he speak for the UN system and does the Secretariat agree about the uprising?

Spokesperson:  The Special Rapporteur is an independent Rapporteur and as all Special Rapporteurs, they have an independent voice, and they've been appointed to bring their opinions into the human rights debate.  I don't have a comment on that particular opinion. 

            While the independence of the rapporteurs is technically true, it seems surprising that the UN would let stand a comment that what took place in Myanmar was not a popular uprising.

Myanmar street scene of what UN rapporteur calls *not* a popular uprising

  Myanmar's foreign minister U Nyan Win, speaking before the General Assembly on Monday, said that "the situation would not have deteriorated had the initial protest of a small group of activists against the rise in fuel prices not been exploited by political opportunists." This is another way of distinguishing what took place from a popular uprising. But why is the UN's rapporteur parroting what the Burmese regime is saying? And why is Mr. Gambari agreeing that his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi be supervised by the Burmese military, then being flown around on their helicopter, to locations of their choosing? Click here for Inner City Press' story of who funds the Myanmar regime.

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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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540