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As Myanmar Imposes 90 Day State of Emergency, UN & Ban Have No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 7 -- After the Myanmar polls closed with light turn out, and the military government imposed a 90 day state of emergency banning political gatherings, Inner City Press the UN spokesman Martin Nesirky and the head of its Good Offices on Myanmar office Vijay Nambiar for the UN's comment on the polls and state of emergency. More that six hours later, there was not comment at all.

  This was odds with Nesirky's response on November 5 at the UN to Inner City Press' request for description of what the UN system would do during the polling. Did the UN observe anything? The UN didn't want to say before the vote, during the vote, or for the hours after.

  Meanwhile, the military government arrested an APF journalist for seeking to cover the voting. “I saw volunteers at a polling station just falling asleep because there was no one to attend to,” said Htaung Ko Htan, a Chin ethnic minority leader who visited between 20 and 25 polling booths in the former capital of Rangoon, now called Yangon. “There are very few people voting,” he said.

The 90 day state of emergency would seem to call for a response from the UN, whose Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he “expects” a transparent and inclusive election. Now, not only the NLD but other political parties are barred from gatherings. But six hours later, no response at all.

UN's Ban & Nambiar in Shanghai, Nov 2010, response to Myanmar 90 state of emergency not shown

At the UN noon briefing on November 5, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: I have some Sudan questions, but I wanted to ask about Myanmar first because of the upcoming election on Sunday. It’s been reported that the Government there is extending an invitation to diplomats and UN representatives to tour polling stations on Sunday. It’s also… that some diplomats have said that they won’t go on the tour, but will make their own arrangements to make some observation. I wanted to know, since the Government there forbid outside election observers, but said it would ask the diplomatic community, including the UN, to do it, what’s the UN intending to do on election day in Myanmar?

Spokesperson: Let me find out.

Question: Maybe hopefully before the day, is that possible?

Spokesperson: It wouldn’t be a bad idea, yeah. Okay?

 More than fifty hours later, still no answer from the UN. So Inner City Press asked Nesirky, his Deputy and VVijay Nambiar:

What is the UN's comment on the 90 day state of emergency imposed on Myanmar after the now completed voting (and, separately, on the voting itself).

Also, while it seemed that a description of UN activity in Myanmar during the voting would be provided by the time the polls opened or at least closed, would still appreciate the description requested (and seemingly promised) on Friday.

   And six hours later, no answer. Watch this site.

Update: 18 hours later, this -- with no mention of the reported 90 day state of emergency, and no description of what the UN did during the polling...

* * *

On Myanmar, Amartya Sen Skeptical of UNDP's Data, Separatists Data Unaddressed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 4 -- While the UN Development Program has just reported that Myanmar jumped up six places in development from 2005 to 2010, economist Amartya Sen who UNDP calls the seminal contributor to the first Human Development Reports called that into question on November 4.

  When Inner City Press asked Sen about UNDP's portrayal of Myanmar's improvement, Sen said “I am skeptical of those numbers.” Speaking “non UNese, as a citizen of the world,” Sen specifically questioned the accuracy of Myanmar's reporting of its hospital services and school data. Video here, from Minute 12:50.

This comes three days before Myanmar's controversial, military heavy elections on November 7, which the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has called deeply flawed, while calling for a Commission of Inquiry into war crimes in the country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on the other hand, did not mention to call for a war crimes inquiry in his report to the General Assembly entitled “Human Rights in Myanmar,” and has said he “expected” the Myanmar elections to be free and fair.

UN ESCAP's Heyser & Amartya Sen: one upbeat on Myanmar, Sen skeptical

  UNDP's staffer Jeni Klugman, on the podium with Sen, tried to defend the report, saying that a country like Myanmar might have moved up in the ranking simply because there were other countries near to it. But Sen was questioning if the data UNDP is relying on is accurate.

  It does not appear that UNDP verifies or even assesses the accuracy or completeness of the data it uses. On November 1, Inner City Press asked Ms. Klugman if the Cyprus number includes data from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. She wrote the questions down, took Inner City Press' card and said she would respond.

On November 4 when asked, she did not have an answer. Afterward, another UNDP communicator approached to say that UNDP uses the UN definitions. Pressed by a Turkish journalist, he said that the UN does not recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But how does Cyprus report on this territory? Or are there parts of the world whose data simply are not included in UNDP's report? UNDP should name them. Watch this site.

* * *
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.

  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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