Friday, 22 August 2008

Rights groups lash out at U.N.

(Mizzima) - Prominent Burmese rights groups have lambasted the efforts of the United Nations in Burma, going so far as to accuse the U.N. of intentionally falsifying the details of Special Advisor to Burma Ibrahim Gambari's now concluded fourth visit to the country.

Aung Din, of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, yesterday challenged as pure fantasy the idea that Gambari had held "10 separate meetings with political parties and civil society groups, including members of the Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy, student representatives and elected individuals from the 1990 elections."

"This statement is not only misleading but patently false — Gambari did not meet with political parties and civil society groups," remarked Aung Din of the August 20th statement from the United Nations.

Describing virtually all groups having met with the Special Advisor as pro-junta, he further asked why Gambari had failed to meet several of the leading opposition organizations, including the All Burma Monks Alliance, 88 Generation Student Group and Committee Representing the People's Parliament.

This interpretation of Gambari's latest sojourn as unacceptably one-sided was seconded in a statement yesterday from the Burma Campaign UK.

"In his first three days in the country he spent more than two days in meetings with the regime, their business cronies and civilian front organizations, and just 20 minutes with the National League for Democracy," according the London-based rights group.

"How can Gambari achieve anything when he allows the Burmese regime to dictate his schedule and spends only 20 minutes with pro-democracy groups?" added Jeremy Woodrum, also of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

When challenged as to the gross discrepancy in time commitments at a press conference in New York on Thursday, Deputy Spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary General Marie Okabe responded: "I now can't go into exact minutes. He has been meeting with a wide range of actors on the ground, with the focus on the need for a credible and inclusive political process and dialogue."

Okabe further defended the mission of the Special Advisor by telling reporters, "as I mentioned to you earlier, he is there to continue his dialogue with all concerned."

As a result of the perceived failure of Gambari to fulfill his mandate, Burma Campaign UK is urging the United Nations to abandon its "softly softly approach to Burma's Generals" and calling for the international grouping to set a firm timetable by which the junta must meet established goals.

"By any measure the record of Gambari and the UN is one of failure," chided Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK.

The organization went on to argue that the human rights situation in Burma has actually deteriorated over the course of Gambari's tenure, citing a doubling in the political prisoner population and the inability to procure passage for vital aid supplies after May's cyclone.

The frustration of the rights groups comes as Gambari departs the country without securing a meeting with either Senior General Than Shwe or National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Because Gambari has kowtowed to the regime on his schedule, he was even unable to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, because she had made a simple request that she meet with Gambari and her political party members at the same time," voiced Woodrum.

In a last ditch effort to meet with the opposition leader, Gambari is reported to have waited outside Aung San Suu Kyi's residence for approximately 90 minutes this morning. However, the Nobel Laureate was steadfast in refusing the Special Advisor a sitting.

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