Thursday, 09 July 2020

LARRY JAGAN

The UN's special adviser to Burma Ibrahim Gambari left Rangoon empty-handed earlier this week.

"There has been no progress on any of the substantive issues raised by the envoy," a western diplomat in Rangoon said. "There is no other interpretation possible. This visit was an abject failure."

Mr Gambari immediately flew to Senegal to brief UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The fact he went directly to see the UN chief certainly suggests the mission is in trouble.

"This probably means the end of Mr Gambari's efforts to mediate in Burma's reconciliation process," a diplomat said.

But Mr Ban has already tried to counter this obvious conclusion.

"There was some progress but we have not been able to achieve as much we had hoped," he said.

His departure has also left the UN and international community in a quandary over how to deal with the junta.

The UN envoy arrived in Burma with hopes of discussing the military regime's proposed plans for political change and encouraging them to be more inclusive. But he was brutally rebuffed.

Mr Gambari was only allowed to meet relatively junior ministers in the regime.

Information Minister Kyaw Hsan was the highest in the hierarchy to greet him. He was, though, permitted to meet pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi twice during his visit.

The fact Mr Gambari did not see any of the top generals, including Than Shwe, speaks for itself. All his meetings this time were confined to Rangoon and not the new capital Naypyidaw.

Mr Gambari's top priority on this trip was to press the regime to include Mrs Suu Kyi and the pro-democracy opposition in the political process.

"I will continue to press the [Burmese] government to engage with Aung San Suu Kyi in a substantive dialogue in order to produce a positive outcome that will promote an all-inclusive and transparent process," he said.

The envoy's trip followed the Burmese government's completion of the country's new constitution and its announcement that it planned to hold a referendum in May and new multi-party elections in 2010.

"Than Shwe's decision to set a time-table for the road map was a strategic move to block both Maung Aye, his deputy, and the international community, especially Gambari, from playing a role in the process," said the diplomat.

The UN envoy knew he faced a daunting task trying to persuade the regime to heed the international community's concerns, but remained undeterred when he spoke on the eve of his visit.

"I will continue my consultations in Burma and follow up on a number of recommendations I left with the government during my last trip in November 2007," he said. "These include immediate steps to address the human rights situation, progress on time-bound dialogue between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi, the forthcoming referendum and the electoral process, economic and humanitarian issues and a more regularised process of engagement with [Mr Ban's] good offices," he explained.

Among the recommendations he made last time he was in Rangoon was the appointment of a government liaison minister to meet regularly with Mrs Suu Kyi to be allowed to meet other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, especially the central executive committee. These suggestions were virtually ignored, though Labour Minister Aung Kyi was appointed to meet the opposition leader. There have been few meetings between the two and only two meetings between Mrs Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders since Mr Gambari's last visit.

Mr Gambari had also asked the junta for permission to set up an office in Rangoon with regular contact with Mrs Suu Kyi.

But instead of Mr Gambari making any fresh headway on these issues, he found the regime totally intransigent and unprepared to listen to him, let alone make any concessions.

In two meetings with the government spokesman, General Kyaw Hsan effectively humiliated the envoy.

In the first meeting the minister chided him for not being impartial and being a stooge of the west.

At the same time he dismissed the envoy's recommendations as pointless and unnecessary, especially the need for the UN to have its own liaison office in Rangoon.

http://www.bangkokp ost.com/News/ 13Mar2008_ news94.php