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With UN's Ban in Laos, Silence on Thai Unrest and Rights, Sri Lanka and Missile

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 -- With the Thai government having been forced by protests to call off today's ASEAN summit in Pattaya, from Laos UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's issued an “urgent” statement that “I deeply regret the postponement of the ASEAN and related summits and the consequent postponement of my attendance to the events.  I understand the circumstances that led the Thai Government to take this difficult decision.”

   Days earlier in New York, Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas had been asked if she or Ban had any views or comments on the already mounting protests in Thailand. On April 8 at the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas, video here --

Inner City Press: with the Secretary-General attending the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] ASEAN trip in Thailand, does he have any comment on the unrest that’s taking place there? Does he have any kind of, I guess either guidance, I mean I know on Moldova he said things should be done peacefully. Why in Moldova and not Thailand? Is there some, is the Thailand street violence less serious or what’s the distinction?

Spokesperson: Well, in the case of Moldova, we had people who were killed, so he’s not going to say anything about what is happening right now in Thailand. As far as we know, everything is set for him for the ASEAN summit and the ASEAN-UN summit. So he is going to go there.

Inner City Press: Is there any chance that… There have been some discussions, including by some UN officials that he might go to Myanmar either before or after the ASEAN summit. Is that now…?

Spokesperson: He is not.

   The previous day, Ban had issued a statement that he “strongly believes that any disagreements regarding election results should be resolved by peaceful means and calls on all parties to refrain from violence and maintain calm.” It was directed, not at Thailand, the country he was about to visit, but at Moldova.

UN's Ban at previous ASEAN conference on Myanmar, human rights not shown

Also on April 7, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas what Ban would raise in the only other stop on his Asian tour, Laos:

Inner City Press: yesterday, you announced that the Secretary-General is going to make an official visit to Lao People’s Democratic Republic on his way to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting. There are a lot of reports right now about Hmong people being pushed out of Thailand into Laos. Human Rights Watch for example has put out a report saying that this is a violation of human rights. Is this one of the issues he is going to raise in Laos?

Spokesperson: Most probably that issue will be discussed. (Video).

   But by all accounts, Ban's visit to Laos was “human rights free.” The lone AP headline was “UN Hopeful on Future of Laos” and reported that Ban “cited improvements in health, education, life spans and infant mortality rates as well as greater integration with the global economy. He said the Laotian government was committed to achieving the millennium goals... He also said Laos would have to focus greater attention on the environment.”

So much for human rights. What about MDGs and the militarized “environment” for the Hmong? With time on his hands, Ban could personally try to have an impact on the “bloodbath” in Sri Lanka, but since he has of late declined to even call for a suspension of fighting, it seems unlikely. While several countries plan to go ahead with meetings in Pattaya about North Korea's missile launch, Ban's announcement said his entire visit to Thailand has been postponed in light of calling off the Pattaya ASEAN meeting, which he "deeply regrets." "deeply. By contrast, he only "regretted" North Korea's missile test...

  Click here for a new YouTube 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.

* * *

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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