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At UN, Ingrid Betancourt Urges Ban to Act About Myanmar, 15 Days of Silence Soon To Be Broken

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 9 -- At the UN's victims of terrorism symposium Ingrid Betancourt, recently freed from FARC kidnappers in Colombia and speaking just after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, threw in a reference to Myanmar's democracy leaders under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi, saying "we must act." Next to her, Ban appeared impassive. For the 15 days since his envoy Ibrahim Gambari left Myanmar without seeing Aung San Suu Kyi, Ban and his spokespeople have avoided any comment about Gambari's visit, widely described as a failure.  Now Ban's own star witness has raised the issue. How Ban will react remains to be seen.

  On September 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's Spokesperson Michele Montas if the UN had received the four-page letter from the United Nationalities Alliance, a coalition of 12 ethnic political parties, which argues that the UN's engagement with or for democracy in Myanmar is "broken." The letter, which was copied to all five Permanent Members  as well as the President of the Security Council, but not the President of the General Assembly, concludes

"Honestly speaking we, United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), truly worry to be broken the engagement of United Nations Organization of its efforts upon democratization, national reconciliation and human rights. So we, United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), would like to request you to reconsider the most effective ways and means appropriate for settlement of political situation in Burma (Myanmar)."

Ingrid Betancourt, looking not entirely unlike Aung San Soo Kyi

After Ms. Montas said she was "aware of that letter," Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: is there any response?  They claim that the UN's engagement in the democracy process is broken.  That seems to be the phrase at the end of their letter.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you should probably wait until... we're going to try and arrange for Mr. Gambari as soon as he is through talking to the Security Council to come and talk to you about these issues.  And it is coming from there, so he is certainly able to answer you.

  While Gambari's belated press availability will be appreciated, Gambari is Ban's envoy. The United Nationalities Alliance' letter, like Ingrid Betancourt's call for action, was directed to Ban Ki-moon. What is his response? We'll see.

Footnote: After Ms. Betancourt's speech, Sudan's Ambassador to the UN told Inner City Press that it had been "politicized," particularly the reference to Myanmar. "This is an expansion of the horizon of double standards," he said. But viewed another way, Betancourt was disagreeing with the UN not only on speakin out about Aung San Suu Kyi, but also on "state terrorism." Citing Aung San Soo Kyi in the victims of terrorism symposium implies that Myanmar's military government is engaged in state terrorism. Sudan, along with members of the Arab Group and others, have disputed the UN's exclusion from the symposium of victims of state terrorism. There are principles, and then there are situations: two different sets of eyeglasses. To be continued.

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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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