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UNICEF $87,000 Rent Linked to Myanmar Regime, Nambiar Silent As Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 23 -- In Myanmar, why would UNICEF pay $87,000 a month to rent its office, and pay it to a landlord with links to the Than Shwe military junta?

  Inner City Press has asked Secretary Genera Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, to put the question to Ban's “Good Office” envoy to Myanmar Vijay Nambiar.

  Are these Good Offices? And what is Nambiar's and the UN's response to a new report documenting the UN's troubling role during the final stage of Sri Lanka's conflict in 2009?

  UNICEF on its website acknowledges then spins:

$ 87,000 per month... Standard due diligence on the owner and her family concluded that none of the international sanctions in place until recently had been levied against the landlady or her immediate family and no criminal charges were extant. Although allegations against a member of her family who was once a member of the previous military regime surfaced, the official had since left public office and was not subject to any criminal charges or international sanctions.”

  Is that the UN's standard -- member of previous military regime is fine to pay $87,000 a month to, as long as no current criminal charges? This is what Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman, on May 23:

Inner City Press: on Myanmar,I wanted to ask it here, because there’s a good offices mandate of the Secretariat. UNICEF has acknowledged that it’s paying $87,000 a month in rent to a former member of the military Government of Myanmar. And, although they say that they did a sanctions check and found… they acknowledge that the person was a member of the junta, they say that it’s okay. And I wanted to know, is this sort of, UN-wide, does the UN in terms of looking at its business relationships and the payments of those types of money — is just not being on the sanctions list enough? Or is there some higher standard?

Spokesman Dujarric: Let me look at what UNICEF has said and if I have anything, I’ll get back to you.

Inner City Press: And maybe ask Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar. That was my thought.

Spokesman: Would be happy to.

Inner City Press: And about the Sri Lanka report, as well.

Spokesman: Yes.

  But these, like Inner City Press' repeated questions about the new report on Sri Lanka, by a member of Ban's only Panel of Experts, have gone unanswered.

  The issue of rent and war crimes has arisen before at the UN in connection with Sri Lanka. In 2011 the president of the UN Correspondents Association agreed with Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona to screen a government film denying war crimes in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium.

  This was agreed to without asking other UNCA executive committee members like Inner City Press -- which since quit UNCA and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access -- and without disclosure or recusal. Inner City Press reported a previous financial relationship -- rent -- between Kohona and the UNCA president. The subsequent attempts to censor Inner City Press are sketched here and have continued since, sometimes comically. But this is not fUNny. This is the UN. Watch this site.


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