Saturday, March 08, 2008
BURMA JUNTA REJECTS, INSULTS UN ENVOY
n the second day of his current visit to Burma, UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari was blasted by the regime's Information Minister Kyaw Hsan in a two hour meeting on Friday. The junta's official mouthpiece newspaper New Light of Myanmar printed more than three pages of "blistering remarks" against the diplomat. The generals are refusing to consider making democratic refinements to their unknown draft constitution, or in the draconian regulations on holding a referendum for the charter.
"The constitution has already been drafted and it should not be amended again," said Kyaw Hsan, some of whose comments were reported by state television late on Friday...The AFP goes on to say that no confirmation has been made for another meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, although the Bangkok Post reports that she was allowed out of her cage to meet him on Friday afternoon.
The minister also accused of Gambari of bias in favour of Aung San Suu Kyi, blasting him for releasing a letter on behalf of the Nobel peace prize winner after his last visit here in November.
"We are very astonished and dismayed for your involvement in this matter," Kyaw Hsan was quoted in the newspaper as saying.
"Sadly, you went beyond your mandate. Hence, the majority of people are criticizing it as a biased act. Some even believe that you prepared the statement in advance and released it after coordinating with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.
The regime's attitude toward Gambari on this visit seems to have dashed any hopes of a breakthrough with the intransigent military rulers. While the frontline player NLD (National League for Democracy) had been expressing hopes for some benefit arising from the current UN mission, most close observers of Burma were already seeing the event as a swan song for Gambari's efforts. Longtime Burma-watcher Larry Jagan:
But while the senior envoy remains optimistic about his mission, his third trip to the country since last year's brutal military crackdown on Buddhist monk-led mass demonstrations, the signs emerging from the military government are that Gambari's visit could be a final courtesy call and mark the UN's forced disengagement from the country's political reform plans.And there were a lot of such signs which emerged over recent weeks. Reading the junta is like reading any other closed totalitarian dictatorship: it's important to notice what gets chopped out of the newspapers. In this case, any mentions of Gambari, or indeed of any UN efforts to mediate in any of the world's hot spots, have been spiked by military censors. Even reporting on efforts by Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan to alleviate the Kenya crisis have been banned.
With their ludicrous referendum plans now on the table, and believing they have impressed the world by putting a date (give or take a month) for the next step in their "roadmap to democracy," the generals are ready to pull into their shell and isolate their country even more. Disengagement from UN mediation (efforts which are broadly supported among Burma's ASEAN partners) is just the first step in getting what they want. The Burmese people and the rest of the world can go to hell, as far as the generals are concerned.
Promises previously made to the UN have not been honoured, and this should surprise no one. Those promises were merely to take the heat off while the world's attention was focused. Opening up a channel of communications between Suu Kyi and a "liaison minister" was only for show -- the infrequent sit-down photo ops have been just that, and nothing more. Dictator in Chief Than Shwe stated his willingness to meet with her, while in reality he refuses to do so. He shunned Gambari on his last visit, and given his reported rage over the envoy carrying Suu Kyi's statement to the outside world in November, he will continue to shun. Gambari is expected to leave on Sunday with nothing to show for his efforts.
Burma's junta mouthpiece newspapers were going for a football analogy in editorials yesterday.
"We should not miss our goal just because meddlers posing as a referee say we must start again. The efforts we have made should not be in vain. We should not let the referee separate us," a commentary published in The Myanma Ahlin and Kyemon newspapers said.So let's get this straight: they want their "goal" and no "referee" is allowed to stand in their way to get it. If the game is their silly referendum, there are two opposing teams -- the "Yeas" and the "Nays." The rules are made up as they go along by the "Yeas," while the "Nays" are prohibited from ever taking possession of the ball. Actually, "Nays" aren't even permitted on the field. In fact, anyone putting on a "Nay" jersey and showing up for the game is guilty of a foul, and will be punished with imprisonment. Referees are "meddlers" and won't be tolerated. Here is the "green team's" conception of sportsmanship in a nutshell.
The United Nations has officially rejected the junta's slap at the referee. Normally that could result in the lawless team being kicked out of the league. But of course the UN has fewer balls than does FIFA, and so remain "hopeful" while the outlaw team may permit a handful of the democratic team to briefly meet the referee on Saturday for tea.
Mr. Gambari has been given use of a State Guest House for his meetings with foreign diplomats and Red Cross workers. It's located in the very neighbourhood (also near Aung San Suu Kyi's barricaded home / prison) that saw a shockingly violent incident on March 3.
Gun crime is nearly unknown in Burma, as ordinary civilians are prohibited from having guns. The military holds the monopoly on that. But on that date, four members of a family and their house maid were shot dead in their home in broad daylight. Sources "close to the government" have told Mizzima News that the bullets used were the products of the junta's Defense Industry.
Here are some brief video shots as broadcast by Burma's "MRTV 3 International" on Friday evening, forming their comprehensive coverage of Mr. Gambari's first day in the country (Thursday). It's only a minute long, and totally free of any actual information. It takes them at least 24 hours to get something ready for air, so there might be some fireworks tonight. Stay tuned.
While the anti-democratic team slaps down the referee in its drive to the goal, and while the democratic team is kept out of the stadium, the fans are not silent. It has been deemed by the former that cheering for the latter is illegal, but the monks are not taking that ruling sitting down. Buddhist monks in Mandalay this week launched a "Vote No" campaign against the cheater side, hoping to block the cheaters' goal. One monk who asked not to be identified told The Irrawaddy that teams of volunteers are putting up anti-regime posters in the city.
"The posters say the current situation is more important than 'a fire on your head,'" he said. "If your head is on fire, only you will die. If you endorse the constitution, the next generation will also die."Remember: opposition to the draft charter or the referendum is absolutely illegal. Anyone posting these notices will be taken to prison.
The posters call the junta’s leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, "Killer Than Shwe" and say the draft constitution is a plan to colonize citizens under military rule. The posters also say, "Free Burma!" and "Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi!" said the source.A separate campaign calls on all monks to boycott the regime's monastic exams to be held this month. The leading monks' organisation which formed to support the citizens' uprising in August, the All Burma Monks Alliance, released a statement last month condemning the referendum decrees as unjust, and only aimed at wiping out people's desires and prolonging military rule. Many members of the ABMA are now in prison or missing (about 100 Burmese remain unaccounted for following the slaughter in September), and the same fate will await any who may be caught in the future. That they continue releasing statements and putting up posters is another true testament to their courage.
"We don’t accept a colonizing constitution," the posters proclaim. "We should reject the constitution in the referendum. We should bury our fear."
That such an odious and repellent regime should escape the imposition of an international arms embargo, is another UN travesty. But Burma has a few powerful international backers to protect them from such measures, and chief among them is China. The UN will not have much moral authority as a force for progress in the world, as long as it has no standards whatsoever for its member countries. A comprehensive UN arms embargo should be the least that could be done against such a blatant outlaw of international norms. But China has a veto, and that's that.
One Burmese monk who lived in hiding for two months after the September massacre before escaping to Thailand, was looking for help among freedom-minded Indonesians this week. U Awbata spoke to diplomats and human rights activists at a Jakarta conference, and implored the world community to stop supporting the murderous regime in any way. Especially, stop selling them the arms to kill and repress their own people.
"As you have seen that the military generals have used their guns to kill and crush their own people, I would therefore like to appeal to the international community here today to work together and urge those countries selling arms to Burma to stop them from doing so," he said.Monk U Awbata was witness to one notorious incident at Burma's holiest shrine, the Shwedagon Pagoda.
"I cannot forget," said U Awbata. "I cannot erase the sight that I saw on the eastern side of the Shwedagon Pagoda where three monks were shot at and when they fell down the soldiers used their boots and stomped on the heads of the wounded monks and beat them with batons."On behalf of his people, U Awbata told the Jakarta conference, "It doesn't matter how many tears I shed, I cannot erase these images from my mind."
The regime expects those images to grow dim over time, in the world's conscience. The rest of us must ensure that never happens.