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In a Five-Day Trip to Burma, UN Envoy Spent only 20 Minutes with Representatives of Burma’s Democracy Movement (click to view PDF)

Envoy Ignores Most Democracy Groups, Makes Meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi Virtually Impossible

August 21, 2008

Contact: Aung Din (202) 234-8022

(Washington, DC and New York) According to informed sources inside Burma (also known as
Myanmar), on Wednesday, August 20th the United Nations “seriously misrepresented” its mission to Burma led by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Mr. Ibrahim Gambari.

The misrepresentation offers a rare window into the reasons that the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy to Burma has failed to make any progress despite a sizeable budget, the backing of the Secretary-General, and numerous trips to the country.

According to a release issued by the UN press office in New York on August 20th, the special envoy Mr. Gambari, whose mission is to facilitate a meaningful and time-bound political dialogue between the Burmese military regime, the National League for Democracy, and the representatives of ethnic political parties, 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,” 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.

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.

“How can Gambari achieve anything when he allows the Burmese regime to dictate his schedule
and spends only 20 minutes with pro-democracy groups?” said Jeremy Woodrum, co-founder of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “Even in this rare 20-minute meeting, Gambari urged NLD leaders to participate in a sham 2010 election that guarantees all key government ministries to the military. The Burmese democracy movement is losing its trust in him and the United Nations,” continued Woodrum. “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.”

In contrast, 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.

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.