-Asian Tribune - Mon, 2008-08-25 03:34
UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari's latest shuttle diplomacy ended in disappointment. He could not meet senior leaders of the ruling Junta. He was also unable to meet with the detained opposition leader Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. When Gambari flew in, expectations ran very high.
The visit came at a time optimism was waning about talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Generals who had unveiled a new statute after staging a referendum in May. The international community hoped that he would succeed in persuading the military to open a genuine political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic groups to create a national reconciliation process that could lead to a genuine democracy.
Gambari failed to have meetings with a senior general. Aung San Suu Kyi was to meet him on August 20, but she did not 'show up.' The meeting was organised by the Junta. Obviously, Suu Kyi did not want Gambari to overstate that his mission was going well. This was Gambari's fourth trip to Burma since the deadly crackdown on anti-government demonstrators led by Buddhist-monks last September.
Burma came under military rule in 1962. The regime has earned the dubious reputation of being one of the world's worst human rights violators. It brutally suppressed pro-democracy movements such as the 1988 Depayin Conspiracy on May 30, 2003, and the Saffron Revolution in September, 2007. There have been many more sporadic crackdowns. The Junta has arrested over two thousand political dissidents including Suu Kyi, who has been confined to her residence for most of the last 19 years.
The regime held a unilateral referendum at gun point on May 10th and on the 24th of this year. It pronounced a mandate for the statute which made the military the final arbiter of the destiny of the Burmese people. The new elections planned in 2010 will legalize military rule. Needless to say, the processes will not be free and fair. The elections will be just like the other referenda held at gun-point. The socio-economic atmosphere is deteriorating. The Junta will not be able to manage the socio-economic situation, which is deteriorating fast. It will soon come face-to-face with a "desolate" future if it continues to reject the national reconciliation process being urged by the opposition groups National League for Democracy (NLD) and the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA)
NLD and UNA point out that the 'ratification' of the constitution staged by the Junta is invalid. Both assert that the ratification was carried out against the will of the people and without observing internationally known norms for referenda. The Junta does not show any respect for the statement issued by the President of the UN Security Council issued in October, 2007. The regime has also negated successive resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), calling for a return to democracy in Burma through a tripartite dialogue between the Junta led by Senior General Than Shwe, the democratic forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic nationalities. Based on this recent turn of events, it is clear that Yangoon has no plan to heed the UN call to release political prisoners, which is a pre-condition to facilitate the tripartite dialogue.
These realities and the Junta's adherence to its Seven-Step Road Map toward 2010 elections make the Gambari mission almost nonsensical. They also bring up front the question: Is Ibrahim Gambari the right person for the delicate job in Yangon?
Is Mr. Ibrahim Gambari the right person to be a special envoy between detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the Senior General Than Shwe? Many a pro-democracy promoter will give the same answer - “No, he’s disqualified.”
Gambari cannot hope to achieve a breakthrough when he obeys the regime's to-do list and spends most of his time with pro-Junta groups or their puppets. He should demand to meet the representatives of the group of 92 Members of Parliament-elect, who have sent letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council. In addition, he should, at least, urge the Junta to release two of the group- U Nyi Pu and Dr. Tin Min Htut, who were arrested on 12 August. At least three prominent members of these MPs who were denied their rightful place in Parliament, U Pu Chin Sian Thang, U Thein Pe and Dr. Myint Naing, are accessible in Yangoon, but the UN Special Envoy did not try to contact them.
Instead, Gambari met with the leaders of the ruling junta which has identified itself as the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA). It is a gang similar to Hitler's 'Brown Shirts', which carried out an assassination attempt on Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi on May 30, 2003. Scores of her supporters were slaughtered during that pre-meditated attack.
Moreover, when the UN envoy met with the NLD, he told them the 2010 elections would be free and fair. But when asked for his 'opinion' on the 1990 elections, he ducked for cover. Furthermore, he did not recognize the purpose of his current mission which was to facilitate resumption of a political dialogue that was postponed in the wake of acyclone.
Hopefully, Ibrahim Gambari will re-evaluate the purpose and direction of his mission as the Secretary-General's Special Envoy. He should not consider advocating or supporting the military dictators' sham constitution and sham 2010 elections. It will damage not only his mission but also the dignity of the world body.
Is it too much for the democratic forces in Burma to expect that the United Nations will quickly come to grips with the Yangon crisis in a more direct manner?
Zin Linn: The author, a freelance Burmese journalist, lives in exile. He is vice-president of Burma Media Association, which is affiliated with the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers.