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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.

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Pro-Asia Mahbubani Says Myanmar “Doing Badly,” Ban Ki-moon “In a Rough Patch”

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 -- Elite pro-Asia academic Kishore Mahbubani, speaking Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said that Myanmar is “doing badly.”

  Also in response to a question from Inner City Press about the UN Secretary General, Mahbubani's first response was that S-G Ban Ki-moon “has hit a rough patch.”

   Given that in other response Mahbubani said that Deng Xioping should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize and that Asia is a much more serious power than the Muslim world, that he nevertheless could not present a story of an upward trend line about Myanmar or Ban Ki-moon is significant.

   By contrast, Ban told Seoul's Yonhap that he is confident in receiving a second terms as S-G (Team Ban contests the translation) and that the reviews of his performance by the international community have been “very positive.” But even Mahbubani could not deliver a positive review.

   Mahbubani's remarks were delivered in a wood paneled room over Park Avenue and 68th Street, lined with oil painting of somber Caucasian old men. This was largely the audience, too, but for two younger women who spoke of human rights.

  In response, Mahbubani said that human rights cannot be spread by sanctions, and that “after Guantanamo Bay, no one takes the US State Department Human Rights Reports seriously.”

Among the audience were the sister of Senator John Kerry, who works at the US Mission to the UN, and Ban Ki-moon's speechwriter Michael Myer, among with John Brademas and David Denoon of NYU, both of whom asked questions.

  Listed but not questioning was “Judith Miller, Journalist.” One wondered what she thinks of Mahbubani's analysis that the US wrongfully spends 80% of its foreign policy on the Muslim world, including Iraq, while it should be devoting those resources to countering China's rise.

Mahbubani, when he was Singapore's PR to the UN, with Sri Lanka's Kohona

  While Mahbabani said that China overplayed its hand in strong-arming Japan to return its ship captain, one also wonders what he'd make of China's moves to block the release of a UN Sudan Sanctions Committee report asserting that Chinese bullets were found in Darfur after an attack on UN peacekeepers there. The event ended at 9 am, and Mahbubani said he had to catch at 10 am train.

 Footnotes: Mahbubani told the audience that he is used to being attacked, most recently on by a historian while taping this week's Fareed Zakaria GPS show on CNN. He praised Zakaria's piece which praises India -- a regular circle of praise.

  Just as Tom Friedman editorialized about conversation with Mahbubani over tea, Mahbubani recounted a talk with a “senior State Department official over tea.” In these heady circles, the UN and Ban Ki-moon are an afterthought, going through a rough patch. Watch this site.

   Mahbubani's talk was reminiscent of Tom Plate's "Giants of Asia" talk at the Singaporean Mission to the UN earlier this year, and his book series by that name which now, Inner City Press has been told, will not include Ban Ki-moon. We'll see.

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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.

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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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