Myanmar Restrictions on Radios and Currency
Exchange Persist, as France Grandstands
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
July 10 -- As the UN appealed for
$300 million more for post-cyclone Myanmar, questions grew about the
conversion of money to kyat, the local currency, through
Foreign Exchange Certificates at the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank.
told Inner City Press that the Than Shwe government is benefiting from
Inner City Press asked the UN's Humanitarian
Coordinator for Myanmar, Dan Baker, who responded that he does not
conversion to kyat benefits the government. But what about the first
the process, the conversion to Foreign Exchange Certificates? That
"fluctuates," Baker replied. Video here,
near end. Local estimates say that the
fluctuations, particular since the cyclone and the UN's appeal, have
the military government.
and the UN's top humanitarian, John Holmes, both effusively praised
Thursday, their own Situation
Report of July 7 states, under the heading "Emergency
Tele Communications," that "Equipment is still held in customs,
on official imports of telecommunications equipment remains, and use of
telecommunications equipment in Delta region is still prohibited."
on with only three minutes remaining in their press conference, Inner
Press asked Baker and Holmes about each of these.
confirmed that these
are the restrictions, but noted that the UN has tried to raise them to
But why no mention of the restrictions until they arose at the end of a
UN's Ban in the Delta, radios and currency exchange
Thursday, when Holmes launched the revised appeal, various countries
Thailand emphasized that humanitarian aid should not be politicized.
spoke about its C-130 cargo flights which ended on June 22. The UK
that it is contributing a further $90 million. (The U.S. has given
$47). And then
the representative of France spoke, saying
"My country and the
international community in general is gravely preoccupied by the
Burma... Let me remind our partners that the Security Council is
the situation on the political side, independent of the mission of Mr.
Ambassadors scoffed, one told Inner City Press that France was just
grandstanding. Afterwards, a Permanent Five member of the Security
Inner City Press that France has "embarrassed John Holmes." Inner
City Press asked Holmes to respond to this; he said that France
"was trying to make a
political point. They want to pursue the political agenda. But...
Ibrahim Gambari is preparing to go back there. I didn't feel
embarrassed by it.
It just wasn't particularly relevant to what we were saying."
An irony is
that those who pushed so loudly to get their own humanitarians into
have not pushed at all to make sure that through currency exchange aid
for victims of the cyclone is not siphoned off to benefit the military
government. One diplomat remarked to Inner City Press, France just
"film its MSF and ACF workers there in Myanmar."
Press asked Dan Baker if the UN is doing anything to help the Karen
including IDPs fleeing military action in the east of the country. "We
have actually less access to that region," Baker said, mentioning a
fund set up to help on the issue. But how is the money in the trust
converted to local currency? Two weeks after Inner City Press asked
UNDP the question, the following arrived on July 10:
"UNDP Funds are remitted
into the UNDP US dollar account at Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank. UNDP
exchanges US dollars for Foreign Exchange Certificates at the Bank, and
converts these into local currency (Kyat). The exchange rate is based
prevailing [most competitive] rate in the market, which can fluctuate."
have more on these "fluctuations." For now we note this response
to the question
of whether the UN and UNICEF have been pressured by the Myanmar
government to hold their press conferences about the cyclone only in
Gambari, whose mission on Myanmar
was mentioned by both France and the UN's Holmes, is reported to have
his recent role in the Niger Delta conflict. While it has been
he took a leave of absence from the UN for that work, Inner City Press
Thursday asked the UN spokesperson if she could confirm or deny that
resigned his role. It is in her personal capacity, she said. But would
the UN if he quit his Nigeria role? Of course, she said. Has he told
that? Not that I know of, she said.
Watch this site. And this --