UN's Currency Transactions with Myanmar Regime
Questioned, UNDP's Two Week Stonewall, Press Closed Out
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
July 9 -- While the UN is now full
of Myanmar, it has emerged that UN agencies have been exchanging
currency at artificially low rates with the Than Shwe government.
Inner City Press that the UN Development Program, for one, was quietly
the Myanmar military regime to profit from each exchange made for local
currency to distribute to Cyclone Nargis victims.
weeks ago, Inner City
Press asked UNDP about what currency exchange rates it has been
Myanmar. The agency's new spokesman committed to provide an answer.
days without information, the question was reiterated, and also posed
UNICEF, which usually provides more timely answers. Inner City Press
the UN's Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes about what
rates are being accepted. "I'll find out," Holmes has answered. Video
here, from Minute 4:34. While admitting he didn't know, he said there
"dodgy deals" in currency exchange in Myanmar. Video here,
from Minute 4:34.
Holmes may well be wrong.
Inner City Press' sources tell it that the military government is in
profiting from post-Cyclone aid, including through the Myanmar
Trade Bank, in which both UN and aid agencies, as well as expatriate
who send remittances to their families, must have accounts. The
this government-controlled bank gives is lower that the actual,
rate; the government pockets the difference.
Messrs. Holmes, Ban & Nambiar, Myanmar
exchange rate not shown nor disclosed
Holmes' answer, some humanitarians have argued that it is worth it to
Than Shwe government to steal some percentage of aid, in order to reach
people. But what percentage is acceptable? And if the UN never
how and by whom is the decision being made? Watch this site.
while the UN Spokesperson was
dismissive of Inner City Press' questioning of
whether the Than Shwe government had ordered the UN to stop giving its
relief press conference in Bangkok, and limit them to the friendly
Yangon, when Inner City Press put the same question to John Holmes
Wednesday, he acknowledged that he is aware that the Myanmar government
rather the briefings be held in Yangon. Video here,
from Minute 9:33.
When Inner City
Press asked him what
safeguards are in place that independent media can access the briefings
Yangon, Holmes quipped that he briefs in New York and "you are here."
But that's not the point. Is the UN giving in to the Than Shwe
attempts to control not only currency exchange, but also information
of July 10 -- UNICEF points to this letter to
Holmes gives another briefing on
Thursday, at which he is expected to have
answers at least on the currency questions. Watch this site. And this --