Wednesday, 30 July 2008

U.S. Calls for End of Myanmar For-Ex Rules After UN Admits Losses, UK Joins, France Silent

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

FEC/Burma Shave series - 1st (June 26), 2nd, 3rd, 4th, last

UNITED NATIONS, July 29 -- The United States is supporting a call that the Myanmar government eliminate currency "exchange rules and regulations" by which of Cyclone Nargis aid "twenty to twenty five percent was diverted," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad told Inner City Press on Tuesday. "I looked into a little of what you said," Ambassador Khalilad began, referring to Inner City Press' reporting since June 26 and questions to him last week and Monday about UN aid losses to government-required currency exchange in Myanmar.

"It's the result of rules and regulations of the Myanmar government," he said, "that a significant portion, 20 to 25%, was diverted... We are looking further into the Myanmar government's diversion of aid." He did not say if the U.S. is pushing for a return of the lost $10 million, but he said clearly that the U.S. supports the call, in which he included the UN, that Myanmar's currency exchange rules and regulations that led to the loss be "eliminated."

Inner City Press also asked the United Kingdom's Deputy Permanent Representative Karen Pierce about the 20 to 25% loss of aid funds in Myanmar, since as she said the UK has sent $92 million there. "It is obviously very concerning," she said. "We're supporting the UN efforts to get this resolved, rather than working through it bilaterally ourselves. We're in close touch with John Holmes' people about this." Video here, from Minute 4:12.

The third of what some currently call the Security Council's three musketeers, France, despite having loudly threatened to invade Myanmar with food aid after the March cyclone, has not answered questions on the subject of 20 to 25% losses of aid funds. On July 28, while France's Deputy Permanent Representative Jean-Pierre Lacroix was taking questions at the Council stakeout microphone, Inner City Press sought to ask a question, but Amb. Lacroix walked away from the microphone. Video here, from Minute 5:03.

Amb. Lacroix's spokesperson, also the French Mission's deputy, it being August, stood in the way when Inner City Press sought to follow and ask the question. Inner City Press emailed her questions about the issue, stating that they were "on deadline," and sent a text message summary of the questions. By mid-afternoon the next day, there was no response from the French mission to the factual questions sent. When one it received, it will be reported on this site.

Footnote: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the day after his Humanitarian Coodinator John Holmes admitted the 20 to 25% losses of aid funds on government-required currency exchanges in Myanmar, is publicizing another contribution to Myanmar. At Tuesday's noon briefing, his spokesperson would have been asked what precautions Ban is taking that his contribution is not diverted in part to the unqualified use of the Myanmar government. But no questions were taken at Tuesday's noon briefing -- there was a farewell press conference by outgoing UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno, which will be reported elsewhere on this site. Into Ban Ki-moon's actions on this issue, we will continue to inquire and report.

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