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As Myanmar Bars Foreign Press, UN Empties “Good Offices” for Other DPA Use

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- As Myanmar moves to bar foreign journalists and elections observers from its impending November 7 polling, the UN on Monday churned out a prepared statement that did not directly engage with the exclusion of the media.

Inner City Press asked acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq to confirm or deny that staffers of the UN's “Good Office” on Myanmar operation, set up by General Assembly resolution, have been even at this critical juncture been redeployed to other non-Burma work within the UN Department of Political Affairs, despite being in GA voted budget lines not supposed to be changed by DPA.

  Haq said he wouldn't comment on “budget lines,” but said that the prepared statement showed that Good Offices work continued. That wasn't the question, of course. And the UN's Myanmar and other such statements are largely cut and paste.

  Inner City Press is informed by well placed sources that the Department of Political Affairs under B. Lynn Pascoe had “made a play” for staffers of the UN Good Offices on Myanmar, “under-occupied” with Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambair "monlighting" in the position since the departure for Darfur of Ibrahim Gambari. These staffers have been assigned work for Tamrat Samuel of DPA.

Vijay Nambiar & Lynn Pascoe, "Good Offices" power play not shown

  There is a problem, however, the sources say. The Myanmar office is not directly under DPA, and its resources, specifically approved by the General Assembly, are not supposed to be redeployed in this way. It is unclear why Haq feels it is legitimate, in this context, to minimize and refuse to answer “budget line” questions.

  These are questions of separation of powers -- and of coddling a dictatorship. Under Ban Ki-moon, these sources say, the GA's Myanmar office has been turning into a husk. Watch this site.

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On Myanmar, US & UN Ban No Comment on Crimes Against Humanity, Nambiar Can't Visit

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 27, 2010 -- On Burma, after his Group of Friends on Myanmar met on Monday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took two questions about the meeting.

  Inner City Press asked for his views of the call by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar for a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity by the Than Shwe regime, and if his envoy and chief of staff Vijay Nambiar is able to even get into Myanmar.

  Ban Ki-moon said he has no comment on the question of crimes against humanity in Myanmar. He said that Nambiar -- who stood near him at the stakeout -- is not able to get into the country, and he regret it. As he spoke, Nambiar left the stakeout.

  UK Minister Burt, who it was said might speak after the meeting, left during Mr. Ban's remarks.

UN's Ban with Gambari and Nambiar, 1 got into Burma, the other can't

 Earlier Inner City Press asked the UK Foreign Minister about Myanmar -- he called it Burma -- and he issued some strong criticism.

   So did US State Department PJ Crowley last week, but on Monday here's what Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said:

Question: A couple of Security Council members, including at times the U.S., have called for a U.N. panel of inquiry into war crimes committed in Burma. And a lot of people have said this can't happen until after the election. Is that a possibility the U.S. is considering, when you talk about new relationships after the balloting?

Campbell: Yes, I don't think I'll have very much to say on that issue at this time. I think what we have tried to indicate is that we have not ruled anything out, either on this issue or others, including sanctions on the way forward. We are looking at what transpires in November, in terms of the way forward. And we reserve the right to take steps either to respond to positive steps or negative ones.

Inner City Press is told, diplomatically, that while Myanmar wasn't formally invited, it was told it could attend if it asked to. It did not -- why should it? Here is the UN's transcript of Inner City Press' !Q & A with Mr. Ban:

Inner City Press: The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar has called for a Commission of Inquiry into possible crimes against humanity by the Government of Myanmar. Several of the Friends have also supposedly joined that call. What do you think of that call? And, also, is your Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambiar, is he able to get into Myanmar, if he so requests? And if so, why hasn't he gone?

SG Ban: I have taken note of that report – this is the report of a Special Rapporteur that I have just taken note of. This is something which needs to be decided, determined by the Member States. I do not have any comment at this time on that particular point.

Inner City Press: What about your Chief of Office being able to visit the country or not, can he visit or not?

SG: We have been trying to visit, somehow this year, it has not been possible. I expressed my regret about that fact.

Watch this site.

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Gambari's Travails with Dictators Shown in UKUN Documents, Myanmar Now Darfur

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive, Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- The UN's Ibrahim Gambari was humiliated by the military rulers of Myanmar in 2009, internal documents of the UK Mission to the UN obtained by Inner City Press show. For example, of Gambari's 2009 trip the UK Mission wrote:

Gambari's visit on 26-27 June lasted a mere 32 hours. As on previous encounters, his programme was revealed to him on arrival. He was driven directly to the new capital, Naypyitaw, a 4-hour drive from Rangoon. A flight to Naypyitaw would have taken an hour.”

  Earlier more optimistic projections, including from the September 2009 meeting Group of Friends on Myanmar meeting (similar to the forthcoming meeting on the sidelines of this week's UN General Debate) came to very little. In 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest and her NLD party has been dissolved.

  Beyond showing Gambari's and the UN's subservience to Than Shwe and others in Burma's military regime, the documents will raise more questions about Gambari's questionable engagement with Sudan's Omar al Bashir government, from which Gambari as head of Darfur's UNAMID peacekeeping mission awaits permission before even sending troops to protect civilians.

  The Myanmar documents of the UK Mission to the UN and of the UK Mission in Yangon, which Inner City Press is exclusively putting online here, include

-a document thanking Italy and summarizing Gambari's visit in early 2009 during which a “meeting was attended by the members of the CEC but the Burmese/Myanmar authorities insisted on the exclusion of Win Tin;”

-a 2006 document in which Gambari “did acknowledge that there were now cross-border implications to the issue, as a result of the situation in the Kayin State;” and

-another 2006 document reciting Gambari's claim that “Than Shwe had pointed out the challenges facing the country, including the underdeveloped border areas, and the role of the military. Gambari commented that he thought Than Shwe would like to re-engage with the international community, and to turn a new page in relations with the UN.”

After these claims, and in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, the Than Shwe government took up to 25% of the UN's aid by means of scam foreign exchange conversion which the UN covered up, until exposed by Inner City Press.

UN's Ban & Gambari spin on Myanmar, UK docs and Darfur not shown

  Now with Gambari in Darfur, seeking permission before protecting civilians and reportedly angling to turn over to the government rebels who support Abdel Wahid Nur, the Myanmar documents provide a glimpse some say into the pro dictatorship leanings of a diplomat who formerly represented a military government at the UN.

 Read the Gambari documents here, and imagine what similar internal documents about the (in)actions of Gambari's successor Vijay Nambiar will show. Watch this site.

* * *

On Myanmar in Manhattan, Long Shot ICC Strategy Pitched, UN Ban Meeting & US Quote Followed by Inaction

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 17 -- Myanmar, or UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Group of Friends on Myanmar, have a place in the upcoming UN General Debate week. In the run-up, fifteen blocks from the UN, there was a film screening and panel discussion about the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma, held at the glitzy Paley Center for Media on September 16.

  Jody Williams of the Nobel Women's Initiative told an auditorium packed with well dress and well meaning New Yorkers that they should write to US Permanent Representative Susan Rice to thank her for President Obama's belated joining of a call for a international inquiry into war crimes in the country.

Some are dubious of this change in US position, after Obama first changed policy to one of engagement with the Than Shwe military government. It's easy for an unnamed US official to join a call for an international inquiry which will never happen, these skeptics say.

Inner City Press, which reports daily on and from the UN Security Council, can attest that the US these days rarely even tried to raise the issue of Myanmar. A senior US official who met with the Press earlier on September 16 confided not being briefed about the upcoming Group of Friends on Myanmar meeting.

The strategy propounded at the September 16 session was to press for Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Since Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, this could only be accomplished by a referral from the UN Security Council.

But it is crystal clear that any referral of Myanmar to the ICC would be vetoed by China, as well as Russia. Strangely in Thursday night's discussion, the word China wasn't once used.

Several attendees found it strange to be promoting a strategy that has no chance of success to such high profile and high income New Yorkers. But perhaps that's not the goal?

UN's Ban, Jody Williams, Thin Thin Aung et al on March 4, 2010, follow up not shown

After the session of the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma in March 2010, Jody Williams and several others including Thin Thin Aung of the Women's League of Burma met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. So far, no read out appears to have been given, nor follow up taken. Watch this site.

Footnote: before the panel discussion the movie “This Is My Witness: Women of Burma Break the Silence” was screened, and afterward Jody Williams urged moderator Pat Mitchell to do what she can to get it screened at Sundance. Also, a portion of “Burma Soldier” by Annie Sundberg was shown, in which a former Burmese military officer described the routine rape of ethnic women in Myanmar.

Reference was made to using UN Security Council resolution 1820, about sexual violence and conflict, which may be more promising that the UNSC to ICC strategy. But will UN sexual violence and conflict official Margot Wallstrom, asleep at the switch during the recent Congo rape scandal, do anything about Burma?

  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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