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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 74

Latest Visit to Burma Yielded no ‘Immediate Tangible Outcome’, Gambari Tells UN Security Council

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, DC 21 March (Asiantribune.com): Acknowledging that he had never been under any illusion that engagement with Myanmar, previously known as Burma, would be “smooth sailing”, Ibrahim Gambari, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, reported to the Security Council March 18 that his latest visit to that country, unlike his previous two, had yielded “no immediate tangible outcome”.

However, he said that, despite the lack of results during his visit to a country that had experienced nearly 60 years of armed conflict pitting its Government against multiple armed opponents, his 6-10 March mission should be assessed within the broader context of recent efforts.

Two years ago, there had been no dialogue with the authorities and, only six months ago, there had been no mechanism for promoting dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, detained leader of the main opposition party.

The National Convention had since established the principles to be enshrined in a new draft constitution and a committee had drafted that text, he noted. A nationwide referendum on the draft constitution would be held in May, followed by ratification and then multiparty democratic elections in 2010 -– the first general election in 20 years. While the referendum and elections were milestones in any transition to civilian democratic rule, they were not ends in themselves. In order to succeed, they required political conditions that would ensure broad and free participation in the transition.

The United Nations would continue to pursue dialogue and engagement so as to strengthen cooperation through tangible results, he said. Over the past two years, the Organization had been the only international actor to maintain face-to-face dialogue with Myanmar’s leaders regarding the need for greater efforts towards national reconciliation, democracy and human rights. It was the only outside actor to maintain access and to act as a go-between between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The United Nations was Myanmar’s “preferred interlocutor” for engaging with the international community and the region. The international community as a whole must support the Secretary-General’s good offices to ensure that the country’s interests and concerns were addressed in a credible, acceptable way.

Detailing his latest visit, he said the Burmese (or known as Myanmar) authorities had granted most of his requests for meetings, including two with the Government Authoritative Spokesperson Team representing the State Peace and Development Council, the Referendum Convening Commission and the Constitution Drafting Committee. He had also met twice with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and with some political parties, but it had not been possible to meet with the senior Government leadership and other parties, including representatives of ethnic minorities. Nonetheless, there had been an opportunity to exchange views on current preparations for the planned constitutional referendum in May and multiparty democratic elections by 2010.

He said he had put on record the concerns of the United Nations, as well as specific suggestions for enhancing the credibility of the constitutional and electoral process. The suggestions included an offer of technical assistance and independent monitoring. In return, he had received repeated assurances that all political forces in Myanmar would be allowed to participate freely in the referendum and elections.

In the socio-economic sphere, he said he had discussed with ministers the United Nations recommendation to establish a broad-based national economic forum. In the ministers’ view, sanctions were the primary cause of any socio-economic problems in Myanmar and the central obstacle to the country’s development.

Technically, therefore, they considered the utility of the proposed forum or similar proposals as limited, since, in their view, such vehicles would only produce a “distorted” diagnosis of the situation in Myanmar. Nonetheless, the Government had expressed an interest in finding areas of convergence in that area, with a view to addressing concerns and challenges.

Regarding dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he said the fact that he had been granted a second meeting with the Nobel Peace Laureate indicated the Government’s abiding interest in maintaining that channel of communication. It also signalled a willingness by the authorities to recognize the value of the United Nations in facilitating substantive dialogue. It was important to recognize the steps that the Government had taken in appointing a Minister for Liaison with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the several meetings they had held so far. On her part, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had already signaled her willingness to cooperate with the Government and she continued to expect the United Nations to help facilitate a substantive and time-bound dialogue.

Also addressing the Security Council, Myanmar’s representative said the Government had come a long way and made significant strides in its seven-step political road map. It would continue to cooperate with the United Nations, as that cooperation was the cornerstone of Myanmar’s foreign policy. The country was not a threat to international peace and security, as all its neighbors could attest. No Security Council action was warranted with regard to Myanmar.

- Asian Tribune -

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