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On Thailand's Descent to Martial Law, US Speaks, UN Silent, UNrelevant

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 -- Thailand is one of the few countries where the UN could have played the mediating role for which it was created. But after martial law was declared, the UN stayed silent, even as the "full respect for democratic principles" its spokesman "very much hoped" for on May 15 lay trampled.

  The US State Department spokesperson issued this:

We are aware of reports that Thailand’s army has declared martial law and are monitoring developments closely. We remain very concerned about the deepening political crisis in Thailand and urge all parties to respect democratic principles, including respect for freedom of speech. We understand the Royal Thai Army announced that this martial law declaration is not a coup. We expect the Army to honor its commitment to make this a temporary action to prevent violence, and to not undermine democratic institutions. The United States firmly believes all parties must work together to resolve differences through dialogue and find a way forward. This development underscores the need for elections to determine the will of the Thai people.”

   From the UN, issues like Israel and Palestine, Iran and North Korea have been taken. But Thailand?

  On May 15, 2014, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: on Thailand, it’s been now that the electoral commission there has said that elections won’t be able to be held by 20 July due to unrest. And the military has said, has sort of made some comments about acting if there remains unrest, I’m wondering does the UN… I know that there have been some statements by the Secretary-General in the past, does the UN have any role, any comment on this? Is it offering to play some role in trying to get the country back on a democratic path?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: You know, as always and in general terms, the good offices are available should they be called upon by both sides in any issue; but obviously, we are watching the situation carefully with concern. We’ve seen the violence over the last few days but we very much hope that both sides and all sides really will show restraint and show full respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights.

   But four days later, when the military declared martial law, there was nary a peep out of Ban Ki-moon's UN. The UN has become irrelevant, on Thailand as for example on Libya.

    On May 19, after days of chaos throughout Libya, Inner City Press went to the UN's noon briefing and asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN had any comment or response to the storming of the parliament and the seizure of airports, which have led to the closure of countries' embassies and consultates in the country.

   No, Dujarric had nothing. Later on May 19 a one page press release was placed in his UN Spokesperson's Office -- not emailed out nor announced by email -- in which the UNSMIL mission, with none of its officials quoted, “expressed deep concern.”

    Why is the UN phoning it in, even on Libya? Sources tell Inner City Press that Secretary General's envoy in Libya Tarek Mitri, “a perfectly nice guy,” has shown little interest in Libya -- they say he hoped to get a position in the new government of his native Lebanon but it did not come through.

 Mitri was Information Minister when Fouad Siniora was prime minister. But for now he hasn't gotten a new Lebanon post.

   Why isn't he even quoted in UNSMIL's bland and belated May 19 press release? This is the state of the UN at present. This is its legacy.

  While the UN talks a lot about women's rights and political participation, activists in Libya tell Inner City Press a different story.

  They describe a May 20, 2013 meeting with UN envoy Tarek Mitri at which he called the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) "nothing."

  They say the new agency UN Women promised to give them information how to reach UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and didn't, and did not attend a May 30 follow up meeting. Now the 35% quota for women is about to be eliminated. And where is the UN?

  On June 19 at UN Headquarters in New York, Inner City Press put these questions to Mitri, and then to Ban's deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey.

  Mitri said it was up to the women to do more, including a "sit in" he said he encouraged them to hold. He admitted saying "wala’ishi" or "nothing" as to CEDAW, explaining that he meant that a Parliament could not be sued. Video here and embedded below.

  "I have spoken to the media on three occasions on this, the UN did everything it said it would," Mitri insisted. "They are nascent, sometimes they are able to act more decisively. It is easier for the UN to support Libyans rather than act on behalf of them."

  Del Buey said Ban Ki-moon supports women. Well, despite UN Women not giving the email address, Ban is set to receive a letter from Libya on this, Inner City Press has learned. So we'll see. Watch this site.

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