BurmaNet News, August 22, 2008
editor at burmanet.org
Fri Aug 22 11:28:17 EDT 2008
August 22, 2008 Issue # 3540
QUOTE OF THE DAY
We don't really know the reason why she [Aung San Suu Kyi] did not meet
Mr. Gambari. But we knew that she was unhappy with the situation. - Nyan
Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy
Irrawaddy: Suu Kyi reportedly refuses to meet Gambari
Irrawaddy: UN ends its relief flights from Bangkok to Burma
IMNA: Ethnic opposition leaders not allowed to meet UN Envoy
DVB: Gambari holds second meeting with NLD
DVB: ABFSU members parents jailed for 6 years
BUSINESS / TRADE
Irrawaddy; Regime allows fuel purchases with FECs
Mizzima: Desperate Burmese youth seek greener pastures abroad
Myanmar Times: New permit system offers more opportunities to work in Japan
Kyodo News Service: ASEAN legislators reject Burma counterparts' request
to join meetings
Mizzima: Rights groups lash out at U.N.
OPINION / OTHER
Bangkok Post: Oppressed Burmese deserve better from the world - Thaung Htun
Irrawaddy: Sending a message to the UN - Kyaw Zwa Moe
Foreign Affairs: Making intervention work
Improving the UN's ability to act - Morton Abramowitz and Thomas Pickering
August 22, Irrawaddy
Suu Kyi reportedly refuses to meet Gambari - Saw Yan Naing
Burmas pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is reportedly refusing to
meet UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari because shes unhappy with the way
his mission is being organized and carried out.
An official of Suu Kyis National League for Democracy (NLD) said: We
heard that she is unhappy with the atmosphere of the Gambari trip.
Sources suggested that Suu Kyi wanted to make it clear to Gambari that she
thought he should also meet Than Shwe and urge the junta leader to begin
The NLD official said Suu Kyi might also have been unhappy with the
regimes organization of a meeting lasting only 20 minutes between Gambari
and the NLD central executive committee on Wednesday, the third day of his
five-day visit to Burma.
At Gambaris request, the envoy had another, longer meeting with five NLD
central executive committee members of the NLD at a governments house in
Rangoon, said Win Naing, a leading NLD member.
Others attending the meeting were Chairman Aung Shwe, Secretary U Lwin,
Than Htun, Soe Myint and Nyunt Wai.
NLD Spokesman Nyan Win said Gambari discussed his mission with the group.
Sources said Gambari plans to extend his stay in Burma by one more day in
an attempt to meet Suu Kyi.
On Friday morning, two Gambari aides were seen by neighbors outside the
gate of Suu Kyi's residence, shouting Gambari's name. They left when
nobody came out to meet them, according to the Associated Press.
During the meeting with NLD executive committee members on Wednesday,
Gambari said he would urge the junta to make sure the general election
planned for 2010 would be free and fair.
Ohn Kyaing, a leading member of the NLD, said Gambari made no reply when
tackled about the 1990 election, the result of which had been ignored by
In the 1990 election, NLD candidates won 82 percent of the parliamentary
seats, but the results were not honored by the military government which
continued to retain power.
In July, the Burmese regime urged the NLD to forget the results of the
1990 election and to form a new political party to contest the 2010
August 22, Irrawaddy
UN ends its relief flights from Bangkok to Burma - Violet Cho
The final UN relief supply flight for Burma took off from Bangkoks Don
Mueang International Airport on Fridaythe last of more than 230 operated
by the UNs World Food Programme following Cyclone Nargis in May.
Don Mueang became a major staging post in the massive international relief
effort that followed the cyclone. The air hub was critical for the
provision of vital relief supplies to the people of Myanmar [Burma], said
Tony Banbury, WFPs Asia regional director.
The WFP planes took nearly 4,000 tonnes of relief supplies to Burma,
including building material, medicine, mosquito nets and water
purification equipment. The 20,000 square meter warehouse at the airport
used to store the supplies will also now be closed.
The WFP said international humanitarian organizations will continue to
supply food, medical supplies and relief equipment to the affected
Irrawaddy delta areas. Nearly 28,000 tonnes of food have so far been
delivered to more than 700,000 people in the region.
Despite the continuing relief effort, refugees are still arriving in urban
areas looking for food and work.
We do not have food in our villages, said a refugee from Dadeye
Township, Irrawaddy Division. We cannot resume our work, like fishing and
farming, so we have to seek help from others.
August 21, Independent Mon News Agency
Ethnic opposition leaders not allowed to meet UN Envoy
Ethnic opposition party leaders have not been allowed to meet United
Nations special envoy, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari who is in Burma on a five-day
visit, though ethnic leaders demanded a meeting.
Twelve ethnic opposition leaders from the UNLD sent a letter to the
Burmese government authorities and the UN office in Rangoon for a meeting
with the envoy.
We are not allowed to meet him. The junta only invited the envoy to meet
ethnic political parties who would support its election, said Nai Ngwe
Thein, Vice Chairman of Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF).
However we sent a letter to UN about our stand on the elections, he added.
Twelve ethnic opposition parties, who won some seats in the 1990 elections
demanded that the UN recognize the 1990 elections and not to recognize the
May 10 referendum. They would boycott the coming election like the
National League for Democracy (NLD).
The Zomi National Congress, the Chin National League for Democracy, the
Mon National Democratic Front, the Arakan League for Democracy, the Karen
National Congress for Democracy, the Kachin State National Congress for
Democracy, and the Kayah State all Nationalities League for Democracy and
four other ethnic parties made the demand during UN Special Human Rights
Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintanas visit to Burma in the first week of
However they were not allowed a meeting and were interrogated by the
special branch of the police.
The regime arranged for the UN envoy to meet representatives of Union Pa-O
National Organization, National Unity Party and a Karen ceasefire group
which support the governments election plans.
The junta, however, arranged the UN envoys meeting with the NLD for a
short while but has not yet allowed a meeting with pro-democracy leader
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who is under the house arrest for more than 12 years.
August 22, Democratic Voice of Burma
Gambari holds second meeting with NLD
United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari met National League for
Democracy executive committee members today for the second time, according
to NLD information team member Dr Win Naing.
Dr Win Naing said the NLD members, led by party chairman U Aung Shwe,
discussed the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners
with the special envoy.
The meeting was held at a government guest house.
The release of political prisoners was the first item on the agenda
Gambari set out for his visit.
He told NLD leaders at a meeting on Wednesday that his other objectives
were to negotiate for direct dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and
regime leaders, to improve Burmas failing economy and to appoint a
communications officer based in Burma.
But Dr Win Naing said he was unable to reveal the substance of the meeting
because the discussions are still ongoing.
The NLD leaders agreed to discuss the topic further with the envoy, but Dr
Win Naing said a time for this has not yet been set.
Dr Win Naing added that NLD leaders were relatively pleased with the
opportunity they had had to hold discussions with Gambari, but said they
were dissatisfied that Gambari has not yet met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during
August 22, Democratic Voice of Burma
ABFSU members parents jailed for 6 years
The parents of one of the leaders of the All-Burmese Federation of Student
Unions, Ko Sithu Maung, have been sentenced to six years imprisonment by
Hlaing township court for obstructing police investigations.
U Peter and Daw Nu Nu Swe, who are both in their 50s, were found guilty of
three charges, including harassing officers on duty and inciting a riot in
The couple was arrested in October last year after they delayed answering
the door to police who came to their house looking for their son.
In their defence, U Peter and Daw Nu Nu Swe testified in court that the
police had knocked on their door late at night with no warrant and had not
been accompanied by local officials and so they had not let them in at
first because they did not know who they were.
But the court found them to have acted illegally and handed down six-year
prison terms to the couple.
Ko Sithu Maung was arrested on 9 October last year from a safehouse along
with two other ABFSU leaders.
He is now in Insein prison awaiting trial.
BUSINESS / TRADE
August 22, Irrawaddy
Regime allows fuel purchases with FECs - Aung Thet Wine
Burmas junta authorized the unlimited purchase of diesel and gasoline
with Foreign Exchange Certificates (FECs) at state-owned gas stations on
Friday. The move was preceded by an increase in the price of an FEC.
The Ministry of Energy sent a memo saying the public could buy diesel and
gasoline without limitation if they pay with FECs, according to a source
We received this announcement around midnight yesterday, said a
petroleum sale manager. But we are still using the previous petrol
distribution system. When using kyat to purchase fuel, each buyer is
limited to two gallons per day under a government rationing plan.
Petrol stations in Rangoon sell a gallon of gasoline for 2,500 kyat (US
$2.11) and about 3,000 kyat ($2.53) for a gallon of diesel. The new rule
prices a gallon of gasoline at 3.75 FEC and a gallon of diesel at 4.25
A petrol station owner in Rangoon, however, said he not seen anyone
purchase fuel with FECs.
Meanwhile, the FEC to dollar exchange rate increased on Friday.
A dollar could buy 950 FEC on Thursday. The price was 1,100 on Friday. A
US dollar is equal to 1,205 kyat, according to the currency exchange
market in Rangoon.
The growing gap between the value of the US dollar and Burmese FECs has
turned the relief effort into a major cash cow for the junta, say currency
Usually, US dollars are technically equal in value to one FEC. But
business sources in Burma say the price of FECs started to fall in the
wake of Cyclone Nargis, as the junta decided to allow major international
aid donations and Burmese living overseas to transfer large amounts of
cash into Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank accounts to support the relief
August 22, Mizzima News
Desperate Burmese youth seek greener pastures abroad - Zarni
Despite being a graduate of Yangon Technological University, Ko Ko said he
has lost hope in finding a good job and plans to go abroad to earn money.
"It is easier to dream of going abroad then sticking around here, because
I don't see any hope for my future here," said Ko Ko in a telephone
interview with Mizzima.
While impossible to paint the expression on his face, his voice naturally
tells that he has lost the hope he once had to earn a living as an
engineer in his own country.
His plan now, he said, was to go abroad, anywhere other than Burma, and
earn a decent salary to build up his life.
Ko Ko, however, is not alone.
An employed information technology (IT) engineer at the Myanmar
Information and Communication Park (MICT Park) in Rangoon said although he
earns a monthly income of 200,000 kyat (nearly 200 USD), he too plans of
leaving and going to Australia to continue with further studies.
"I earn a pretty a good salary which is enough for me. But it is
insufficient if I have to support my family. Although I'm okay here, I
will go abroad for further study," he said on condition of anonymity.
Parents, even teachers, seem to have lost faith in Burma for the future of
Naw Eh Khu, a high school teacher in Rangoon, said she is sending her two
daughters, ages 6 and 8, to Singapore for studies as she does not
believe education in Burma can guarantee her children's future.
"The education here cannot guarantee the future of my kids. So I am urging
them to go and study in Singapore," Naw Eh Khu explained in a desperate
A retired economics professor from the University of Rangoon commented
that with Burma's deteriorating economic situation and the lack of
opportunities for young people, both educated and uneducated Burmese youth
see migration to foreign countries as a new opportunity to enhance their
A popular employment agency in Rangoon, which has connections with job
placement agencies in several Southeast Asian countries as well as the
Middle East, remarked that the number of job applicants has increased in
Normally, the employment agency said, at least 10 to 15 Burmese youth per
month are picked up by companies to work in foreign countries. But in a
few months, when a spike in hiring is expected, over 100 could get picked.
And the number of applications for positions abroad in the past year have
doubled, an official at the agency said.
"Applications are coming in at twice the rate of before. Though there are
many vacancies like accountant in Burma itself, most applicants prefer to
find a job overseas," Yee Mon, manager of another employment agency in
Yee Mon said the most popular countries where Burmese educated youth seek
employment are Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai.
While many Burmese opt for general labor positions, in Malaysia, Singapore
and Dubai it is possible for Burmese to find jobs as accountants, IT
professionals, engineers and hoteliers, according to the agency.
"Most Burmese people here work in the fields of IT, engineering or
accounting," said a Burmese worker in Singapore. He added that it is
because of strict Singaporean laws on illegal immigration that many
Burmese manual-laborers are barred from entering the country.
Ma May Oo, who earlier worked as an accountant at a machinery company in
Rangoon, said she left her job and came to Singapore to find employment as
she feels that a simple white-collar job in the city-state can better
guarantee her livelihood.
"In Burma, it's not easy to get good jobs which can grantee a future. I'm
sure working here is a big opportunity for my future," she explained. But
she added that she is yet land a job.
A retired tutor from the Hlaing Campus of the University of Rangoon said
that although there are several young graduates in Burma, the country is
unable to offer them proper placement upon entering the workforce.
'The main reason they leave is because there are no appropriate jobs with
an appropriate salary that can keep them in Burma," said the retired tutor
who wished not to be named.
A retired economics professor, who now resides in Singapore, agrees. He
said Burma does not offer space for its youth to express themselves to the
fullest and has constantly imposed restrictions that eliminate the
possibilities of creating new spaces for them.
"They [the government] have constantly suppressed the students, and in
order to control the students, they repress the education system and never
bother to check the standards," he added.
With at least 2 million Burmese migrant workers recorded in neighboring
Thailand, Burma is one of the highest producers of migrant workers in the
region. According to a human rights group based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
hosts about 500,000 Burmese migrants.
While a few Burmese are lucky to be employed in clerical jobs, most of
these migrant workers fall into blue-color jobs such as those in
restaurants and at construction sites with lowlier posts including jobs
like cleaning drains.
Singapore hosts as many as 60,000 Burmese nationals. But with its strict
policy on illegal immigrants, most Burmese nationals in Singapore do hold
legal work permits.
"This is going to be a common phenomenon in the coming years too, until
there is a change in Burma," the retired Professor said.
But the fear, he continued, is losing human resources from a country that
has been plagued with political instabilities that have in turn led to
Following General Ne Win's military coup in 1962, Burma's economy hit a
downturn, as the ruling Burmese Socialist Programme Party implemented a
policy of self-isolation.
But the situation actually worsened after the current batch of military
dictators assumed power in 1988 and brutally crushed protestors demanding
democratic change in 1988.
The military junta, who has since refashioned itself as the State Peace
and Development Council (SPDC), has tried to implement a weird education
system which is unrecognizable by international standards.
>From 1988 to 2008, the SPDC has changed the curriculum of a basic high
school education at least five times, with each new curriculum lasting
only a mere couple of years.
The junta has also engaged itself in what it deems upgrading the education
system by erecting new university buildings, opening new institutes
including those for technology and computer science and forcibly
re-employing former students as faculty.
However, most Burmese youth under the given systems have struggled to
sustain their hope in finding a job at home.
The retired professor went on to note that though voluntary migration of
Burmese youth is a step backward in terms of the loss of human resources,
it could also be an investment in a future Burma as many of the youth,
experiencing severe difficulties in Burma, have an opportunity to continue
their studies and obtain an international standard of education abroad.
In Singapore, he said, "traditionally Burmese youth will join the
polytechnic and get a diploma in two years. And since they excel in their
studies, they can get jobs easily."
As for Ko Ko, though jobs in his profession are not lacking, he said that
with the little income he is making there is no more progress he can make
"I have graduated here [in Burma] but there is nothing more I can do here
to enhance my career. My only hope now is to go abroad and continue my
studies," he concluded.
August 18-24, Myanmar Times
New permit system offers more opportunities to work in Japan - Ye Linn Htut
Japanese foreign labour recruitment agencies began seeking Myanmar workers
under an official work permit system for the first time in June, agents
for a number of local companies said last month.
Before June labourers looking to work in Japan had to make all of the
arrangements themselves. This is the first time weve been allowed to
issue work permits for the many workers here that want to find positions
in Japan, said the director of New Fortune employment agency, U Aye
Five Japanese recruit-ment firms negotiated directly with their
counterparts in Myanmar last month, with up to 300 workers already sought.
U Aye Myint explained that workers must be able to pass Japanese-language
level three tests, although they are not required to be fluent. The
workers must also be aged between 20 and 45 and have passed matriculation
tests in Myanmar.
The labourers will work in fields such as food production, furniture
manufacture, car making and electronics industry.
The Japanese employment companies want these labourers in Japan and
working as soon as we can send them and the main requirement they are
worried about is the level three language test. The labourers will also
have to work fast and be healthy, said another agency director, U Pho
Workers will be paid salaries between 180,000 and 220,000 yen per month,
depending on their position for a 40-hour week based on eight-hour days.
They will also have one day a week off.
U Aung Zaw is one worker who has, in the past, gone to Japan to work. He
said medical insurance is something that workers ought to consider.
Medical insurance in Japan is paid by the worker and while it is not
compulsory, all workers should pay for it because it means that any
medical bills you incur while there will be much smaller, he said.
Long-term workers are even able to apply for residency, he said.
Someone who works legally in Japan for five years can apply to become a
resident immigrant, he said.
But in the shorter term, labourers who gain a work permit are allowed to
work for one year and then apply for extensions later.
A spokesperson for Myanmar New Life General Service explained why the work
permit system has recently been opened up.
Japan was facing a skilled labour shortage. Companies are trying to solve
this issue by finding workers from other countries.
And in June the work permit system for Myanmar workers, he said.
August 22, Kyodo News Service
ASEAN legislators reject Burma counterparts' request to join meetings
Legislators from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Friday
rejected a request by a group of Myanmar parliamentarians-in-exile to be
allowed to take part in their annual meetings as members or at least as
The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, which brings together legislators
from the 10 ASEAN member countries, turned down the request made by the
Myanmar parliamentarians' group known as the Members of Parliament Union
on grounds that Myanmar is already represented in the assembly, albeit by
the country's junta.
"Our concern was a technical one - we cannot admit another body," said
Abdullah Tarmugi, speaker of Singapore's Parliament, who is also the
assembly's current chair.
"But there was great empathy for the plight of the Myanmarese and we urged
the Myanmar government to quicken the pace towards democratization and
reconciliation," he said.
In the absence of a functioning parliament, Myanmar's military government
has special observer status in the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly,
which was established in 1971.
Myanmar's delegation to the body's 29th General Assembly here was led by
Deputy Attorney General Tun Shin, who Tarmugi said objected to the MPU's
request for representation.
A joint communique issued at the end of the meeting said the assembly's
Executive Committee "decided that it will not be able to accede to the
request at this juncture given that consensus could not be reached on the
admission of the MPU."
The MPU was formed in 1996 by parliamentarians who were elected in 1990
but are now in exile. The election then was won by Aung San Suu Kyi's
National League for Democracy, by an overwhelming majority, but the junta
refused to honour the results.
MPU members, calling themselves the legitimate parliamentarians of
Myanmar, want their fellow parliamentarians in ASEAN to allow their
participation in the inter-parliamentary assembly as a sign of solidarity
with the movement for democracy in Myanmar.
More than 300 ASEAN parliamentarians attended the meeting, which also
discussed issues such as food security and environmental sustainability.
The next general assembly will be held in August 2009 in Thailand.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
August 22, Mizzima News
Rights groups lash out at U.N.
Prominent Burmese rights groups have lambasted the efforts of the United
Nations in Burma, going so far as to accuse the U.N. of intentionally
falsifying the details of Special Advisor to Burma Ibrahim Gambari's now
concluded fourth visit to the country.
Aung Din, of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, yesterday challenged as pure
fantasy the idea that Gambari had held "10 separate meetings with
political parties and civil society groups, including members of the
Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy, student
representatives and elected individuals from the 1990 elections."
"This statement is not only misleading but patently false Gambari did
not meet with political parties and civil society groups," remarked Aung
Din of the August 20th statement from the United Nations.
Describing virtually all groups having met with the Special Advisor as
pro-junta, he further asked why Gambari had failed to meet several of the
leading opposition organizations, including the All Burma Monks Alliance,
88 Generation Student Group and Committee Representing the People's
This interpretation of Gambari's latest sojourn as unacceptably one-sided
was seconded in a statement yesterday from the Burma Campaign UK.
"In his first three days in the country he spent more than two days in
meetings with the regime, their business cronies and civilian front
organizations, and just 20 minutes with the National League for
Democracy," according the London-based rights group.
"How can Gambari achieve anything when he allows the Burmese regime to
dictate his schedule and spends only 20 minutes with pro-democracy
groups?" added Jeremy Woodrum, also of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.
When challenged as to the gross discrepancy in time commitments at a press
conference in New York on Thursday, Deputy Spokesperson for the U.N.
Secretary General Marie Okabe responded: "I now can't go into exact
minutes. He has been meeting with a wide range of actors on the ground,
with the focus on the need for a credible and inclusive political process
Okabe further defended the mission of the Special Advisor by telling
reporters, "as I mentioned to you earlier, he is there to continue his
dialogue with all concerned."
As a result of the perceived failure of Gambari to fulfill his mandate,
Burma Campaign UK is urging the United Nations to abandon its "softly
softly approach to Burma's Generals" and calling for the international
grouping to set a firm timetable by which the junta must meet established
"By any measure the record of Gambari and the UN is one of failure,"
chided Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK.
The organization went on to argue that the human rights situation in Burma
has actually deteriorated over the course of Gambari's tenure, citing a
doubling in the political prisoner population and the inability to procure
passage for vital aid supplies after May's cyclone.
The frustration of the rights groups comes as Gambari departs the country
without securing a meeting with either Senior General Than Shwe or
National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Because Gambari has kowtowed to the regime on his schedule, he was even
unable to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, because she had made a simple request
that she meet with Gambari and her political party members at the same
time," voiced Woodrum.
In a last ditch effort to meet with the opposition leader, Gambari is
reported to have waited outside Aung San Suu Kyi's residence for
approximately 90 minutes this morning. However, the Nobel Laureate was
steadfast in refusing the Special Advisor a sitting.
OPINION / OTHER
August 22, Bangkok Post
Oppressed Burmese deserve better from the world - Thaung Htun
The Burmese people have had to maintain a sense of optimism after 46 years
of military dictatorship. But, as the first anniversary of the Saffron
Revolution approaches and in the midst of yet another visit by the United
Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Rangoon, optimism is waning. The
international community has expressed its commitment to promoting
democracy in Burma, as this latest visit by Mr Gambari underlines.
However, commitment in its expression is easily undermined by its failure
For instance, strong words in the wake of the devastating Cyclone Nargis
in May against the inhuman intransigence of the military leaders, has not
yet ensured that aid is getting to the most needy Burmese.
Millions of aid dollars have been creamed off and pocketed and still aid
workers are blocked from gaining full access to many of those hardest hit
in the Irrawaddy delta.
This inaction is the more disappointing when placed next to the
non-movement from global bodies like the United Nations on the ridiculous
referendum held in May. The vote, held in areas still recovering from
Nargis and carried out amidst widespread vilification and oppression,
resulted in a constitution which seeks to guarantee the rule of the junta
and confirms the iron rule of the military as a legally validated
Yet, still the UN has issued no statements or commentary, let alone a
heated condemnation and censure motion as might be expected.
Finally, some international actors have extended tacit support for the
''full'' election to be held in 2010, as the military's own self-created
roadmap decrees. That this election is expected to take place in the
current climate of intimidation and fear, as well as against a backdrop of
a patently undemocratic and frankly absurd constitution, appears not to
have motivated enough international actors to move to quash the process
and to replace it with an internationally sanctioned and supported free
and fair election.
This somewhat squeamish approach leads to a process which is actually
aiding the consolidation of military rule, rather than seeking an
all-inclusive democratic process. The ruling SPDC has proven that it is no
longer relevant as a responsible national body, and holds the mandate of
its governmental legitimacy, won by the direst acts of terrorism, in a
tense grip of state violence on a massive scale.
Yet, it basks in the warmth of validity based on its position and power,
as defined by realpolitik international agendas.
Meantime, Burma's democracy movement is being forced into a corner. Groups
such as ours, which represents the Members of Parliament elected in the
last full and free election, in 1990, cannot hope to operate in such
circumstances. If democracy is a flower, then it would appear it is
expected to grow in soil so poor that nothing of the kind has ever grown
It is clear that a number of major points need to be addressed prior to
any election in Burma.
First, an ongoing dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the
National League for Democracy, the outright winners of the 1990 election,
must be opened and maintained.
This is difficult, if not impossible to achieve, without her release from
house detention. This leads to the second condition: the release of all
Third, there needs to be a convention established to construct a
democratic election process. This must involve all relevant parties, such
as the NLD, ethnic groups and the military.
Among the agenda items for this convention would be the building of an
interim constitution and the construction of a national unity government
to oversee the pre-election period.
Fourth, Burma needs an economic development forum to raise issues of
poverty and to seek measures for alleviating it.
Finally, a regular channel of open communication must be opened between
such bodies as the UN and appropriate actors inside Burma, to ensure that
access to dialogue is never used as a weapon again. A permanent presence
in Rangoon, say of a UN mediation centre, would aid this process.
It is imperative that Mr Gambari pushes for these goals as his efforts to
return democracy to Burma will falter should they be ignored.
A year since the birth of the Saffron Revolution, the UN and other
international interlocutors have a long way to go.
For Burmese, the distance seems ever longer. So far, the only conclusion
is that the international community has failed Burma. As time goes on,
failure becomes an option that is no longer tenable. The people of Burma
deserve better. The world must do better.
Thaung Htun is Representative for UN Affairs of the Burma UN Service
Office, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, Burma's
August 22, Irrawaddy
Sending a message to the UN - Kyaw Zwa Moe
Has Aung San Suu Kyi started playing a new game? If so, the latest visit
of UN Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari could mark the beginning of a
subtle but significant shift in the pro-democracy leaders tactics, which
have remained almost unchanged for the past 20 years.
By refusing to meet with Gambari on two occasionsat a scheduled meeting
on Wednesday and again on FridaySuu Kyi appeared to be sending a silent
message that she was less than happy with the outcome of his efforts to
On Friday morning, the scene outside Suu Kyis home, where she has been
under house arrest since 2003, descended into farce. Neighbors reported
seeing aides of the UN envoy repeatedly shouting his name, evidently
hoping to persuade her to meet with him.
As Gambari comes to the end of his latest five-day visit to Burmahis
sixth since taking on the role of special envoyits beginning to look
like it might be his last.
Normally, it would be up to the generals to relegate yet another failed
emissary to the diplomatic dustbin. This time, it seems that Suu Kyi has
done the dirty work.
What has prompted Suu Kyi to snub a representative of the United Nations,
an organization which she once worked for?
We dont know the reason why Daw Suu didnt meet Mr Gambari. But we know
that she was unhappy with [the] situation, said Win Naing, a spokesman
for Suu Kyis National League for Democracy (NLD).
We are not satisfied with it either, he added.
On Friday, in response to a request from Gambari, five senior members of
the NLD agreed to meet with him again, after it had become clear that an
earlier meeting on Wednesday did little to allay concerns that the party
was getting short shrift from the UN envoy.
Win Naing said that Gambari spent only 20 minutes speaking with the NLD
officials during the first meeting. The Friday meeting lasted 90 minutes.
The meeting shouldnt have been so short, he told The Irrawaddy by phone
on Friday, adding that Gambari was simply allowing himself to be led
around Rangoon by the authorities. Senior members of the regime have also
refused to meet him.
Although there are reports that Gambari will extend his visit until
Saturday, it is unlikely that Suu Kyi will meet him before he leaves the
For the past two decades, Suu Kyi has always played along with the UNs
diplomatic efforts, in keeping with her belief that only dialogue will
break Burmas political deadlock.
However, with little to show for years of effort, the UN appears to be
drifting toward a position of tacitly accepting the regimes so-called
road map to disciplined democracy. This would effectively erase the
results of a 1990 general election that the NLD won by a landslide,
leaving the party out in the cold.
During the meeting with the NLD members on Wednesday, Gambari asked how
they would feel about planned elections set for 2010 if they were free and
fair. They responded by asking him what he thought about the results of
the 1990 election. He did not answer, said Win Naing.
Gambari also had no answer when asked why he had spent most of his time
meeting with groups formed by the military government.
On Thursday, the Washington-based US Campaign for Burma questioned claims
in an official UN statement that said the envoy had held ten separate
meetings with political parties and civil society groups, including
members of the Central Executive Committee of the National League for
Democracy, student representatives and elected individuals from the 1990
This statement is not only misleading but patently falseGambari did not
meet with political parties and civil society groups, with the exception
of the NLD. Instead, the UN envoy met with nine Burmese groups, all of
which are supporters and proxies of Burmas military regime, the US
Campaign for Burma said in a statement.
The campaign group said that Gambari met with representatives of the Union
of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which is the
major funder of the regimes Swan Ah Shin militia. The group was notorious
in cracking down on peaceful demonstrators in the monk-led protests of
The envoy also met representatives of the Union Solidarity and Development
Association, a junta-backed civic group that violently attacked Suu Kyis
motorcade and killed several dozen of her supporters in 2003.
As it appears that the UN is moving towards a capitulation to the will of
the junta, lending it a legitimacy that it has no claim to, Suu Kyis
willful silenceafter being gagged for decadesis perhaps the strongest
protest she can mount against an injustice that must not be permitted to
September/October 2008, Foreign Affairs
Making intervention work
Improving the UN's ability to act - Morton Abramowitz and Thomas Pickering
Summary: The UN must streamline its decision making process so it can
start backing up its lofty words with action.
Morton Abramowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation and former
U.S. Ambassador to Thailand and Turkey. Thomas Pickering is Vice Chair of
Hills & Company and has served as U.S. Ambassador to six countries and the
In May, Cyclone Nargis struck southern Myanmar (also known as Burma),
killing over 80,000 people and leaving millions homeless and in dire
conditions. For weeks after the storm, Myanmar's military junta blocked
and delayed international relief efforts while doing little to aid
Despite heated condemnation from capitals throughout the world, the
international media, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Myanmar's
government was exceedingly slow in allowing foreign aid and foreign relief
workers into the affected area. Myanmar -- already a humanitarian disaster
before the cyclone -- has once again starkly exposed the international
community's inability to face down governments that massively mistreat
their people. It is time for the international community to reduce the
disparity between words and deeds.
In the past few decades, there have been remarkable advances in the fields
of human security and human rights. Democratic governments and
civil-society organizations have increasingly spoken out against wanton
human rights abuses, violence against minorities, and the dangers of
unchecked state sovereignty. Terms such as "never again" and appeals for
"humanitarian intervention" and a "responsibility to protect" have become
commonplace as concerned countries have sought to prevent man-made crises
or halt them before they descend into mass violence. Treaties such as the
United Nations' Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime
of Genocide and an international criminal judicial system have been
developed to limit states' power to harm their own citizens and their
In the face of certain humanitarian disasters, such as Serbian violence
against Albanians in Kosovo during the late 1990s, the world has reacted
strongly to end the atrocities. Some international efforts have come too
late: in Bosnia in the 1990s, Sierra Leone at the turn of the century, and
Liberia in 2003. And there are ongoing humanitarian emergencies today in
repressive states such as North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe and broken
states such as Somalia. These countries have remained largely immune to
international pressure; meanwhile, their citizens continue to suffer.
Rising public concern, media attention, and pressure from grass-roots
organizations have helped ensure that governments do not simply avert
their gaze. All of this attention has also helped produce significant
diplomatic activity (as in Darfur) and has generated large sums of money
to assist refugees and displaced people fleeing violence and ruin.
Unfortunately, it has not been enough to put an end to the worst crises.
In an ideal world, noncoercive efforts would produce better behavior. But
states persecuting their own people are rarely responsive to peaceful
gestures. General sanctions also have their limitations; they tend to hurt
already-suffering populations and have little impact on government
policies, as was the case in Iraq during the 1990s and as is happening in
Myanmar today. Sanctions that target regime leaders (especially their
finances) are more promising, but preventing leaders from entering the
United States or doing business there -- two cookie-cutter sanctions
Washington often employs -- does not seem to have much of an impact.
MOVING BEYOND RHETORIC
The international community desperately needs to develop better mechanisms
to respond to these pressing human-security . . .
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