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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?

* * *

As Myanmar Dissolves NLD, UN Prior Notice and Efforts Not Clear, UN Meeting Undefined

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 15 -- In the wake of Myanmar dissolving the National League for Democracy of Aun Sang Suu Kyi, the UN Wednesday issued cautious criticism in response to a question from Inner City Press, while implicitly admitting the UN and its envoy Vijay Nambiar cannot or simply do not speak with the parties there.

  Previously when Inner City Press has asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky about the NLD being absent from the upcoming elections in Myanmar, which many call a scam, Nesirky has responded with a UN position that the NLD was free, and chose, to boycott the election.

  But now that the government has dissolved the NLD and other parties, the UN finally had criticism ready. Did it come from UN envoy -- and chief of staff to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon -- Vijay Nambiar? There is no way to know.

  When Inner City Press what Nambiar and his “Good Office” team have been up to, Nambiar first said “you are well aware.” That is not the case. For example, did Nambiar know in advance of the impending dissolution of the NLD? Nesirky would not say.

  Inner City Press what Ban plans to come out of the September 27 meeting of his “Friends on Myanmar.” While already for the similar meeting about Sudan on September 24, also during the UN General Debate, there's talk of an outcome statement about the planned referendum, Nesirky merely said to watch for a press availability after the September 27 meeting.

UN's Ban & Than Shwe: NLD, Aun Sang Suu Kyi and Vijay Nambiar not shown

From the UN transcript of September 15:

Inner City Press: On Myanmar and something about MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] promotion, promotions by the UN. On Myanmar, the National League, the NLD [National League for Democracy] has been dissolved by the Government. They had previously voluntarily chosen to boycott the election, and I think the UN had said, well it’s up to parties what they want to do. But now the Government has dissolved them and the party. The NLD has said that this is an illegal move by the Government, that they’re protesting the dissolution of their political party by the Government. So I’m wondering, given the good offices role, given the run-up now to this election, what’s the UN where it previously it sort of said, “well, the NLD can boycott if they choose”, what about the Government dissolving this historic force for democracy in Myanmar?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Secretary-General notes with some concern the decision by the Union Election Commission to dissolve 10 political parties prior to the general election, including the National League for Democracy and four others for failing to renew their registration, and he further notes that the Union Election Commission has issued campaigning guidelines for the remaining 37 parties to register to contest the elections. The Secretary-General once again urges the Myanmar authorities to ensure conditions conducive for a fully inclusive and participatory electoral process.

Inner City Press: Thanks a lot for that. What’s the involvement of Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar in the good offices and what does the Secretary-General hope to come out of the meeting of the Secretary-General’s Friends on Myanmar in the upcoming general debate?

Spokesperson: Well, I think you’re fully familiar with Mr. Nambiar’s good offices role related to Myanmar. The Group of Friends meeting, which would be at ministerial level, is likely to be on 27 [September]. Further details are being worked out on that, including press availability, and I think at that point, after the meeting, you’ll be able to find out the content of the meeting.

Inner City Press: Just about Mr. Nambiar, because I’m actually not clear on what the office does. I wanted to know, on something like this, did they know in advance that this decision was being made by the Government? Had they spoken to the NLD about these concerns or are they just reacting to the stories about it? I don’t meant that insultingly, I just mean, I’m just trying to get a sense, did that office try to forestall this decision by the Government, or are they as mystified as everyone else?

Spokesperson: Well, there are a couple of things here. Mr. Nambiar has support, people who are obviously able to help him, who are monitoring this daily, the whole time. Therefore, they will clearly have been aware of movements. What the diplomatic process might entail, I’m not in a position to say. I would reiterate what the Secretary-General himself has said. He’s expressed his frustration here on the access to the Myanmar authorities to talk about these kinds of things, so I think that might answer your question.

So if Mr. Ban cannot speak with the Myanmar authorities, despite the UN allowing them to take up to 25% of post Cyclone Nargis aid money and declaring the response one of his finest hours, it seems clear that Mr. Nambiar can't either. What Good Offices? Watch this site.

* * *

As Myanmar Ends Visas for Cyclone NGOs, UN Looks Away, Blessing Scam Election

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 23 -- In the run up to a November election which will exclude Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, the military government of Myanmar has moved to curtail the system of entry visas for aid workers instituted after Cyclone Nargis.

While one might expect the UN, whose Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once claimed this post-Nargis access as one of his major accomplishments, to speak out against this re-closing down of Myanmar, that has not been the case.

In recent weeks, Inner City Press has repeatedly asked the UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky and UN officials who appeared only on condition of not being named to list any recent accomplishment on Myanmar of the UN's Good Offices role. On August 20, Inner City Press specifically asked if the UN or its envoy on Myanmar Vijay Nambiar, Ban's chief of staff, had any comment on the visa crackdown. Here is the UN's response in Inner City Press:

Subject: Your question on the TCG
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply <unspokesperson-donotreply [at]>
To: Matthew Lee [at]
Date: Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 3:25 PM

At the 43rd ASEAN annual meeting Hanoi on 19–20 July 2010, the ASEAN Foreign agreed to officially to end the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) and the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force (AHTF) by 31 July 2010 and to transfer the coordination role to the Government.

In light of the Government’s announcement that Nargis related work will be taken up by the relevant line ministries, the UNCT is engaging closely with the authorities to ensure that needed assistance in not interrupted.

There are today 15 UN agencies, 50 international organizations and a similar number of local NGOs operating inside the country and are working not only in the Ayeyarwaddy delta, but in all regions of Myanmar. Looking forward, the United Nations and the Government of Myanmar have reached agreement for collaborating on a two-year Joint Humanitarian Initiative (2010-2011) for Northern Rakhine State, a border area whose population faces a particularly difficult combination of socio-economic and humanitarian factors.

  So will the UN's current push for Pakistan end with a similar whimper?

UN's Ban at Burma model village, follow through not shown

   As elsewhere reported on the Myanmar visa crackdown,

this brings about several changes, none of them good for aid workers or the cyclone survivors who can hardly make ends meet. First, as there is no single ministry overseeing aid work, aid agencies will have to sign cooperation agreements with individual ministries... A veteran aid worker who declined to be named said that it usually takes between four months and two years to obtain a cooperation agreement with a ministry and another five months to be granted a visa.”

By which time, of course, the scam election entrenching the military dictatorship will already have taken place -- with what to some now seems the de facto “blessing” of the UN. 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.

* * *

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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