On Myanmar, a Tale of Three Browns, Gordon at UN,
Two in Foggy Bottom
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
March 25 -- While the UN's Ban
Ki-moon is said by his advisors to be close to announcing a visit to
as early as next month's ASEAN meeting, with U.S. support, the
Myanmar, particularly for minorities like the Rohingya and the Karen
continues to deteriorate.
at the US State Department on March 25, a
visit to Myanmar by one US official named Brown was denied, while
confirmed but downplayed. A
rapprochement appears to be afoot, not based on any human rights
the Than Shwe military regime, but out of lack of imagination or hunger
At the UN's
noon briefing on March 24, Inner City Press asked
Inner City Press: On Myanmar,
the UN’s working group on
arbitrary detention has said that the imprisonment of Daw Aung San Suu
violates not only international law, but also Myanmar domestic law. And there is also a report in The Times of
London about villages being laid to waste in the Karen areas of the
country. Is this something that either
Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari or Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General is looking at
advance of a possible visit to the country?
Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq:
Well, the Secretary-General and Mr. Gambari
are certainly aware of this report.
Obviously the report speaks for itself and you can
get it through the
website of the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As for a visit by the Secretary-General,
nothing has changed in terms of what we’ve said. There
is no visit planned at this stage.
final statement may technically be true, a senior UN official happily
Inner City Press that the visit will happen, and named April 18 at as
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's meeting with the UK's Gordon Brown on
Ban said that Myanmar was one of four country conflicts they discussed.
others were Sudan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Brown offered some
Sudan and Afghanistan, but nothing on Sri Lanka or Myanmar. Afterwards,
City Press asked the UK Mission spokesman for a read out of the meeting
regards Myanmar, which will be reported on this site upon receipt.
UN's Ban and UK's Brown: talked Myanmar, but about what?
In what they call the Foggy Bottom, at the US
State Department media briefing on March 25, the following occurred and
QUESTION: Can you confirm that a
U.S. official met with Burmese officials in Burma yesterday, and that
is a sign
of softening of the U.S. position on Burma?
Acting Deputy Department
Spokesman, Gordon Duguid: No, I will not
confirm that because it’s not correct. I did see that this was a report
blog. I’ve been directly in touch with the officials that the blog
there was no contact that either official recalls, let alone sought
out. So the
report is incorrect.
QUESTION: So it’s incorrect to
say that the – Mr. Blake [Ambassador Robert O. Blake] met with the
MR. DUGUID: It is incorrect.
QUESTION: Okay. And – but is it
correct to say that he was in Burma, was in Myanmar?
MR. DUGUID: In what time period?
I believe he has visited Burma once in the past. He has not, however,
substantive conversations with Burmese officials, nor has the U.S.
QUESTION: If you say it’s not
substantive, what does that mean? Does that mean he’s had other, less
MR. DUGUID: As all diplomats
know, if you go to a reception and the host has invited someone else,
in that setting come across someone from a – in this case, the Burmese
Government. The ambassador has no recollection of that happening.
MR. DUGUID: But that is a
possibility at some point in the future, of course.
QUESTION: When he last visited
Burma? You said he visited there recent past.
MR. DUGUID: I did not say the
recent past. I said at some point in the past. I don’t have that –
for you. I do believe he has been to Burma at some time in the past. I
think it’s relevant to this particular question.
The above was
later clarified in the form of a "Question Taken" e-mail update:
Question: Can you confirm that a
U.S. official (U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Robert Blake) met with
officials in Burma yesterday and does this represent a softening in
Answer: No. As the Acting Deputy
Spokesman said at today’s Daily Press Briefing, Ambassador Robert Blake
meet with Burmese officials yesterday.
However, Stephen Blake, the
Director of the Office for Mainland Southeast Asia at the State
to Burma as part of a five-country tour of the countries that fall
office: Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In Burma, Mr. Blake met with a
variety of people representing a wide range of views regarding the
situation, including Foreign Minister Nyan Win, other members of the
government, members of ethnic minority groups, and members of the
League for Democracy’s Central Executive Committee (aka “The Uncles”).
His visit does not reflect a
change in policy or approach to Burma; Office Director-level officials,
including Mr. Blake’s two immediate predecessors, have visited Burma
with Burmese officials on a number of occasions in recent years.
The Burma policy review announced
by Secretary Clinton is still underway. While we have not yet finalized
approach, we remain committed to encouraging a genuine dialogue between
Burmese authorities and opposition that leads to a free and democratic
that respects the rights of its diverse citizens and is at peace with
Back on March
17, at the UN's noon briefing Inner City Press asked:
Inner City Press: in the last 24
hours, Myanmar has arrested five more democracy activists.
Meanwhile, at least it’s said from United
Nations officials that Ban Ki-moon is considering visiting in and
ASEAN summit. First, is there any
response to these more recent arrests of democracy activists? And two, what are the standards that Ban
is going to use for visiting Myanmar or not, and does he plan to go on
Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe: I
have nothing to announce in terms of any
visits today. In terms of the
Secretary-General -- the criteria are spelled and nothing has changed
as well. As for the immediate comments
to today’s arrests, his Adviser, Mr. Gambari, has been very clear on
subject of arrests.
clarity about the Karen people or on the questions raised about how the
Constitution's reservation of 25% of seats for people of "military
background" not only would make it still a military government, but
excludes women, based on non-attendance at the two military academies
Myanmar which would give the required "military background"?
Click here for Inner City
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City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
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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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