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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2732

Burmese Dissidents Call United Nations for Openness and Accountability

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 22 August (Asiantribune.com): While US Campaign for Burma (USCB), a Washington-based dissident group, accuses United Nations of “misrepresenting” its recent mission to Burma (Myanmar), the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) called for UN Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari to call for tripartite talks with opposition groups, the release of political prisoners and to deliver frank accounts of his meetings with opposition groups and Burmese officials.

The USCB refuting the UN press statement of Gambari’s visit to Burma says that during the first four days of his five-day trip, Gambari appears to have spent most of his time meeting and dining with low level officials of the regime and pro-regime groups, with the exception of three hours of meetings with the UN Country Team, foreign diplomats and ICRC officials, while spending only 20 minutes with Central Executive Committee Members of the NLD on August 20, 2008, from 3:00 to 3:20 PM.

The UN press statement released August 20 said: (Begin Text) the top United Nations envoy to Myanmar met with the country’s planning and health ministers today to discuss ways to tackle the socio-economic conditions in Myanmar on the third day of his five-day trip.

Ibrahim Gambari, Special Adviser on Myanmar, also held 10 separate meetings focusing on the need for national inclusive dialogue and a credible political process, as well as the country’s socio-economic challenges.

Participating in the meetings were political parties, civil society groups, including members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), student representatives and elected individuals from the 1990 elections.

August 19, Mr. Gambari also visited the delta region affected by Cyclone Nargis, and met with members of the State Peace and Development Council to exchange views on a range of issues, including the release of political prisoners. (End Text)

The USCB refutes this United Nations claim in the following press statement:

(Begin Text) This statement is not only misleading but patently false -- Gambari did not meet with "political parties and civil society groups," With the exception of the NLD. Instead, the UN Envoy met with nine Burmese groups, all of which are supporters and proxies of Burma's military regime.

For example, Gambari met with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), the major funder of the regime's brutal militia "Swan-Arr-Shin". This group led the regime's efforts in attacking and killing peaceful monks and democracy activists during and after last September's Saffron Revolution. Gambari also met with the notorious Union Solidarity and Development Association, a group comparable to Hitler's "Brown Shirts," that carried out an assassination attempt on Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2003. During that attack dozens of her party members were killed. Gambari also met with the National Unity Party, the military-backed political party that lost severely to the NLD in 1990 elections -- gaining only 10 out of 485 seats in parliament. He also met with the 88 Generation Students and Youth, another pro-junta group, which had campaigned to support the regime’s constitution. This group is not related to the major dissident group, the “88 Generation Students”; instead, it is a front group formed by the regime to counter the activities of real student activists. (End Text)

The statement further notes: “This statement is not only misleading but patently false -- Gambari did not meet with "political parties and civil society groups," With the exception of the NLD. Instead, the UN Envoy met with nine Burmese groups, all of which are supporters and proxies of Burma's military regime."

Contrary to what the UN said, the USCB noted, Gambari did not meet with Burma's most influential opposition groups, including:

1) All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA), a powerful organization of young Buddhist monks which led peaceful protests in September of last year. Many leaders of ABMA, including Ashin Gambira, are now in prison, sentenced to death.

2) 88 Generation Student Group, prominent dissident group comprised of former student leaders who have spent 10 to 16 years in prison for their belief in democracy and human rights. Many leaders of the group, such as prominent figure Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Pyone Cho, Mya Aye and Htay Kywe, are in prison.

3) The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), a major ethnic political party that won the second largest seats in the Parliament in the 1990 election. Its leaders Hkun Htun Oo and Sai Nyunt Lwin are in prison.

4) The Committee Representing the People's Parliament, a group of parliamentarians that represent Burma's last democratically elected parliament.

5) A key group of 92 members of parliament-elect, who have sent letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Security Council, among them, two, U Nyi Pu and Dr. Tin Min Htut, were recently arrested. Others important figures -- U Pu Chin Sian Thang, U Thein Pe and Dr. Myint Naing -- are available in Rangoon but have not been contacted by Gambari.

Meanwhile the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) issued the following statement:

(Begin Text) Burmese dissidents called for UN Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari to call for tripartite talks with opposition groups, the release of political prisoners and to deliver frank accounts of his meetings with opposition groups and Burmese officials Bo Kyi, the joint secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), said, “He [Gambari] must do what he should do. After meeting with Burmese officials and the opposition, he should give frank accounts to the public.”

"For example, if the junta is stubborn and doesn’t want to negotiate, he must frankly report that so the UN can clearly understand the issues," said Bo Kyi.

Han Thar Myhint, a National League for Democracy spokesperson, said the party’s office was told by authorities to prepare for a meeting with the UN envoy, but did not indicate the day or time of the meeting.

The UN envoy met with Burma’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win on Monday in hope of continuing the stalled talks between the junta and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

He also met with representatives of the diplomatic corps, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UN Tripartite Core Group and was briefed by the UN country team, according to a UN report.

Cin Sian Thang, the chairman of the Zomi National Congress in Rangoon, said ethnic leaders have had little input into Gambari's past trips to Burma and knew little about his current five-day visit.

"We only knew that Gambari came to Burma and went back," he said. "We don’t know whether he would like a chance to meet with us or not," said Cin Sian Thang.

"We heard that he will meet with opposition leaders and ethnic leaders. So, we are hoping to meet him, and we are ready to discuss issues with him as well. We are now waiting for him, but we haven’t heard whether he will meet us."

On Tuesday, Gambari visited Kungyangone Township in southern Rangoon, one of areas most affected by Cyclone Nargis which struck on May 2-3 and left more than 140,000 dead and missing. Gambari met with Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan in Rangoon, according to a spokesperson with the UN Information Center in Rangoon.

Lian H Sakhong, the secretary-general of the Thailand-based Ethnic Nationalities Council, on Tuesday urged Gambari to try to persuade the military regime to create a tripartite dialogue that includes the government, opposition leaders and ethnic leaders.

Meanwhile, the Burma Campaign UK on Monday urged Gambari to make the release of political prisoners a top priority during his visit.

"The release of political prisoners will be the benchmark by which Gambari and Ban Ki-moon will be judged," Wai Hnin, a political prisoners advocate at Burma Campaign UK, said in a statement.

"It’s a normal, first step when a country enters into political reform," he said. "If the regime is genuine about their claims, they will reform. They should release all political prisoners immediately."

The statement said conditions in Burma's prisons are deteriorating as authorities deny medical treatment to political detainees including leaders of the 88 Generation Students group such as Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Mya Aye as well as Myo Yan Naung Thein, a student activist, who are all in Insein Prison.

"The United Nations Security Council has said the political prisoners should be released, and Gambari and Ban Ki-Moon must make that happen," he said. "We have had 20 years of envoys going back and forth with nothing to show for it. It is time they delivered concrete results." (End Text)

- Asian Tribune -

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