Burma:The UN Envoy should not overestimate Burma’s new President by U Zin Linn

A visiting top UN official said Thursday that recent signals from Burma’s new army-backed government were “very encouraging”, after talks with democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, AFP reported Friday.

“The government has made some very interesting statements… which are very encouraging,” Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters after meeting Suu Kyi.

Vijay Nambiar, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Burma (Myanmar), wrapped up a visit to Burma on Friday. He met with senior members of the country’s newly formed Government and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left , welcomes Vijay Nambiar,right , chief of staff for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at her home Thursday, May.12, 2011, in Yangon, Myanmar. Pic: AP.

Vijay Nambiar said that during the three-day visit he highlighted the significance of the Government implementing its stated commitments on such issues as governance, human rights, the rule of law and sustainable development.

In a press statement issued in Rangoon, Burma’s former capital, Mr. Nambiar noted that expectations are high both domestically and internationally that the Government will soon take “concrete steps” to meet those commitments, as said by the UN News Centre.

“In all my meetings I stressed that this must include the release of all political prisoners and inclusive dialogue with all segments of society, as well as greater outreach to the international community to ensure that the proposed reforms enjoyed broad buy-in,” he said.

“Only then can there be greater confidence that the efforts undertaken will indeed serve to meet the long-standing needs and aspirations of the people of Myanmar. There is no time to waste if Myanmar is to move forward.”

On the contrary, Burma’s several important political prisoners were still in prison although President Thein Sein’s inaugural speech talked about democracy and good governance. It is doubtful that the new government will create any actual democratic changes in the country, according to observers.

Mr. Nambiar welcomed the themes and reforms outlined by President Thein Sein in his inaugural speeches on “some of the most pressing political and economic challenges facing Myanmar (Burma).”

The Special Adviser referred to sustainable development and equitable growth; good governance, through greater inclusiveness, accountability and transparency; respect for fundamental human rights, the media and the rule of law; and continued engagement with those who do not accept the recently adopted constitution and the Government’s roadmap agenda, as said by the UN News Centre.

Coincidently, Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) President, Eva K. Sundari made a speech on “100 days of Parliament of Myanmar”, in Canberra, Australia, 12 May 2011. She pointed out that the new parliament of Burma or Myanmar is the puppet of the military. Military backed parties controlled 80 percent of seats, including 25 percent of nominated seats for the military, ensuring their continued control of power.

The government failed to establish peace, civil wars between government army and ethnic group’s armed forces along the border of eastern Burma has been crucial. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is not precedent for the release of more than 2000 political prisoners. Around 146 inmates have died and the rest have lived in dire isolated prisons, AIPMC also underlines in its Press Release.

During the visit Mr. Nambiar met with the ministers of foreign affairs, home affairs, social welfare, national planning and development, as well as newly appointed presidential advisers for political, legal and economic affairs. He also held discussions with the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Assembly and the Secretary-General of the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

But, it is not clear whether Mr. Nambiar noticed the new decrees made by President Thein Sein’s government. The members of parliament are barred from getting in touch with illegal organizations such as the NLD. Breaching this restriction will cause the cancellation of parliamentary membership and the dissolution of the respective party. The information on the parliamentary sessions is also limited and can not be delivered to outside people. Although parliamentary sessions have been held behind closed-door, the authorities have rejected many questions made by parliamentarians. MPs have had to withdraw their questions relating to human rights issues such as general amnesty for political prisoners, educational reforms and public health assistance.

New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Nambiar not to allow his visit “to be misused by the government to shore up its credibility on human rights in the absence of meaningful progress.”

“Should Nambiar fail to speak clearly about the need for meaningful reforms, the government will simply spin his visit to justify their abusive practices,” said HRW deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson.

According to some observers the UN Special Envoy’s visit seems to be used as usual by Burma’s new government as an opportunity to promote its credibility.


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