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In Myanmar, UNclear If UN Helped Kachin Villagers, UN Manages Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 25 -- Amid a chorus of praise for Myanmar at the UN, at least tempered by outgoing rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, Vijay Nambiar of the UN was petitioned earlier this month in Kachin State to intervene for more than 50 villagers trapped by the army in Putao District's Nhka Ga.

This week, Inner City Press was contacted and told nothing had been done by the UN, and so asked the question at the October 24 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I am told Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar met with the Kachin Baptist Convention about villagers in a far part of Kachin that are reported to be trapped by fighting and they made a plea to Mr. Nambiar for the UN to somehow get involved. Whatís been done since that? It was done earlier in October before the mid-point of the month and I wanted to know what if anything has been done.

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Iíll check with Mr. Nambiar, who, as you know, has been in the region quite recently, so let me see about that.

Then Nesirky's office sent this:

Subject: Your question on Myanmar
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 5:32 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

During his recent visits to Kachin, the Secretary-Generalís Special Adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, met with a number of groups representing civil society in Kachin, including with the representatives of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC). He heard directly of the grievances between the parties and the effect of the standoff between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the military on the civilian population in the area. The Special Adviser has been in touch with the authorities, as well as with the KIO, in regard to the causes underlying this tension. He strongly advised restraint by all concerned and against any action that was liable to provoke further tension as well as for the protection of the safety and security of the civilian population in the area.

So what was done? This answer was not inserted into the UN's transcript, as certain other answers are. Now there are reports that, in fact, nothing was done: "Nambiar is reported to have responded to KBC's requests to intervene by telling the church representatives to raise the issue with the relevant Burmese officials. Despite the fact that KBC has asked on several occasions for the villagers to be allowed to leave Nhka Ga, the military has yet to allow this to take place, according to KBC officials."

So on October 25 Inner City Press went to the UN press conference by Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana. The UN had put his with two other officials on migration, one of whom spoke for ten minutes praising his own country.

Finally Inner City Press asked Ojea Quintana about the Kachin villagers in Nhka Ga, said to be pushed for the tycoon Tay Za. Inner City Press also asked if there is a two child policy in Rahkine State.

Ojea Quintana said he's told there is no "policy," but perhaps a practice. What's the difference? He did not answer on the specifics of Nhka Ga -- perhaps he will look into it -- but said that there is no recourse for people in land disputes.

 Perhaps we'll hear from Mr. Nambiar, what was or was not done.

More was not possible, in part because the UN insists on automatically giving the first question such press conferences to the Executive Committee of the UN Correspondents Association.

 The head, Pamela Falk of CBS, goes and asks questions many of the answers to which she never reports. Then the second questioner, also from the UNCA Executive Committee, solicited a ten minute answer praising her own country. This is UNCA. This is why it works so well the the UN. During the briefing, the Free UN Coalition for Access put an objection on the record. Video here, from Minute 40:14. We'll have more on this.


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