Friday, November 09, 2007
UN CLAIMS SUCCESS FOR GAMBARI MISSION
he United Nations has announced a successful conclusion for the Gambari mission to Burma, as the UN envoy wings his way back to New York to report to the Security Council. He wrapped up his visit with an hour-long meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in detention, but left without any assurances of her release, and without achieving an audience with junta top dog Than Shwe.
Statements released by both Suu Kyi and the regime led some observers to hope for a breakthrough, but the junta's record for not honouring its word left many others sceptical.
Suu Kyi will be allowed to meet with members of her own National League for Democracy party today -- the first time she's had this privilege in three and a half years -- and she is also expected to meet with the regime's "Minister for Relations" General Aung Kyi.
The UN was upbeat.
"We now have a process going which would lead to substantive dialogue" between the government and Suu Kyi, said a U.N. statement issued shortly after Gambari left Thursday afternoon but before the statements from the government and Suu Kyi were released.The democracy leader said she would cooperate with the regime in fostering national reconciliation, but was hoping for an imminent advancement from preliminary discussions to meaningful dialogue. State media coverage however pointed to continuation of the status quo.The generals are determined to continue following their "seven step roadmap" to democracy.
"As desired by the people, the government will continue carrying out democratic reforms in accordance with the seven-step road map," the New Light of Myanmar said Friday at the end of full-page coverage of Gambari's visit.They've been "working" on "reforms" for the past 17 years, and the "roadmap" was put on paper early this century. I believe they've managed to complete step one. Their handpicked National Convention has drawn up "guidelines" for a new, undemocratic constitution -- which means at this rate of progress the remaining six steps should be completed around the year 2112.
The regime's own statement on the situation sounds to me like tossing the international community a bone, and those who know them well from close-hand, know better than to trust them.
A junta statement saying it would "make efforts steadfastly for national reconciliation with the correct cooperation of the U.N. Secretary General" also gave cause for hope despite the army's litany of broken promises during its 45 years of rule.Foreign diplomats in Rangoon are even more sceptical.
"I find it very difficult to trust them. I hope this is not some new ploy," a roadside book vendor in Yangon said.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this regime has no intention of cooperating with Gambari or of starting a process of genuine political dialogue," one Yangon-based diplomat said. "It's beyond them."Here is the full text of Aung San Suu Kyi's statement, carried out of the country by Mr. Gambari and read to reporters upon his arrival in Singapore.
"I wish to thank all those who have stood by my side all this time, both inside and outside my country. I am also grateful to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, for his unwavering support for the cause of national reconciliation, democracy and human rights in my country.Meanwhile, more tidbits of information about some army officers' sympathies for the freedom struggle are emerging. A Burmese Army captain in Mandalay who handed bottled water to monks on September 26 and 27 has fled his battalion under threat of arrest.
"I welcome the appointment on 8 October of Minister Aung Kyi as minister for relations. Our first meeting on 25 October was constructive and I look forward to further regular discussions. I expect that this phase of preliminary consultations will conclude soon so that a meaningful and timebound dialogue with the SPDC leadership can start as early as possible.
"In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success and welcome the necessary good offices role of the United Nations to help facilitate our efforts in this regard.
"In full awareness of the essential role of political parties in democratic societies, in deep appreciation of the sacrifices of the members of my party and in my position as General Secretary, I will be guided by the policies and wishes of the National League for Democracy. However, in this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.
"To that end, I am committed to pursue the path of dialogue constructively and invite the government and all relevant parties to join me in this spirit.
"I believe that stability, prosperity and democracy for my country, living at peace with itself and with full respect for human rights, offers the best prospect for my country to fully contribute to the development and stability of the region in close partnership with its neighbors and fellow ASEAN members, and to play a positive role as a respected member of the international community."
A Burmese military officer who provided water to monks involved in protests in late September in Mandalay has fled his battalion after a warrant was issued for his arrest...Meanwhile two senior commanders have been "kicked upstairs" in what is seen as punishment for refusing to obey Than Shwe's orders to shoot unarmed and peaceful civilians in Mandalay and Rangoon.
By the end of October, the military command headquarters had issued an order for his arrest, and so he ran away to avoid detention, according to military sources on the China-Burma border.
During the recent demonstration, Win Myint, the commander of Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 77 in Pegu, had been deployed to Rangoon. Tin Tun Aung, commander of LIB 33 in Sagaing, was on the scene in Mandalay. According to Win Min [a Chiang Mai-based Burmese civil-military analyst], both commanders did not open fire immediately as ordered.Brig-Gen Win Myint is up for Deputy Minister of Electric Power No.2, and Brig-Gen Tin Tun Aung for Deputy Minister of Labor. This sounds very much like a Thai traditional way for punishing errant officers. Only here it's called "transfer to an inactive post."