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In Myanmar, UN Belatedly Speaks on Kachin, After Press Q Through CBS Block

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- In Myanmar earlier this month, 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.

  But it now appears that until the question was asked at the UN on October 24, nothing was done.

   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. What’s 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: I’ll 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-General’s 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.

   This answer was not inserted into the UN's transcript, as certain other answers are. Inner City Press asked about it again, see below.
  Then lo and behold, the UN in Myanmar belatedly put this out:

Yangon, 25 October 2013: The UN is deeply concerned by the situation of civilians affected by renewed clashes between Myanmar Army troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Mansi Township, Southern Kachin State. Fighting between the two sides broke out on 22 October 2013 near the villages of Nam Lim Pa and Mung Ding Pa.

The UN estimates that 1,200 internally displaced people live in Nam Lim Pa and some 500 civilians, mostly children, are sheltering in a church in Mung Ding Pa. Many displaced children have been hosted for long time in a boarding school in the area, and are now again trapped in a conflict zone. While some people have been able to escape the violence, many are unable to move to safer locations. “I am seriously concerned about the civilians being caught in any cross-fire, especially children and the elderly,” said Mr Nigam, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar. Mr Nigam strongly urges all parties to respect civilian’s fundamental right to freedom of movement and allow safe passage to their areas of choice.

The UN and partners delivered assistance through cross-line operations to this area for 1,300 IDPs in July 2012. A further mission planned for September 2013 was canceled because of renewed fighting. Local partners are currently unable to reach these locations, and the displaced have only food for a few days, according to local sources.

Hostilities must cease and access to the displaced people for humanitarian partners be granted immediately as these people are in urgent need of assistance,” Mr Nigam stated.

  Meanwhile at the UN, praise of Myanmar continues, even as IDP camps in Kachin are overrun by the government.  There was this report: "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."

  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 Kachin  He did not answer on the specifics -- perhaps he will look into it -- but said that there is no recourse for people in land disputes.

 Perhaps we'll still 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.

   Now, a day after her questions, a Google News search for CBS and Ojea Quintana finds only... Inner City Press' story about the press conference. The question was just to fill space -- blocking other questions.

  The second questioner, also from the UNCA Executive Committee, solicited a ten minute answer praising her own country. This is UNCA. What makes it so offensive is that this organization tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN. This is why it works so well the the UN. During the Myanmar briefing, the Free UN Coalition for Access put an objection on the record. Video here, from Minute 40:14 and see first two questions. We'll have more on this.


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