Tuesday, August 10, 2010

UN chief laments lost opportunity for Burma

Tuesday, 10 August 2010 15:41 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Frustration over the forthcoming elections in Burma is growing at United Nations headquarters, with the Secretary-General relating his feelings in offhand remarks on Monday.

Speaking to reporters in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his opinion that Burma’s ruling generals have ignored any attempt by the Secretary-General’s office to engage in a proactive process ahead of this year’s planned elections.

“I have been very clear in expressing our concerns and expectations regarding the political process, including the planned elections this year. It is a source of frustration, however, that Myanmar [Burma] has been unresponsive so far to these efforts,” remarked the international diplomat.

He added, “A lack of cooperation at this critical moment represents nothing less than a lost opportunity for Myanmar [Burma].”

Though the Secretary-General received praise from certain quarters for the role played in securing access to cyclone-stricken regions of Burma in 2008, his mission to assist in effecting tangible progress in finding a political solution to the country’s crisis has to date proven fruitless.

Ban’s special adviser to Burma, Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar, held talks in June with Indian, Chinese and Singaporean leaders regarding the situation in Burma.

The post of special envoy to Burma, though, has remained vacant since the departure of Ibrahim Gambari from the position at the close of 2009.

However, rumors circulating in the first week of August are that Ban is searching for a senior Japanese diplomat to fill the post. Burma and Japan share a long and rocky relationship, with Burma’s independence heroes first fighting alongside Japanese forces in World War II before turning against their progenitors.

In recent decades, Tokyo has taken a stance different to both the sanctions regime as championed by Washington and a policy of non-intervention espoused by ASEAN, instead prioritizing development aid as a political tool.

When pressed on the issue of a successor to Gambari and whether a Japanese diplomat was the front-runner, a UN spokesperson last Wednesday in New York told reporters the Secretary-General’s good office “is not one individual, if you like, it’s people working behind the scenes. Not everything that happens is in the public eye.”

The UN remains a divided house on the subject of Burma, with North American and European governments by in large condemning the electoral process established by the Burmese junta and regional countries generally playing a wait and see game hoping for stability and incremental improvement in the situation.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest and out of the electoral process, the continuation of a 20-year dispute between her National League for Democracy party and military authorities that has left the Southeast Asian country politically paralyzed.

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