Written by U Ne Oo on 2000-04-23

As all of us here on this list know, the Secretary-General Kofi Annan has chosen the Malaysian diplomat, Hon. Razali Ismail, as his envoy to Burma. The Secretary-General's Good Office has the mandate to initiate a dialogue between the Burmese junta and NLD with the participation of ethnic minority representatives. This is not the first time the Secretary-General asks Mr Ismail to work as his envoy. In 1998 (I think) Mr Ismail was asked to go to Rangoon as UNSG's personal emissary. At that time, the military junta had refused to receive Mr Ismail.


Mr Ismail, understandably, requested the exile groups not to "politicise" his trip to Rangoon. Actually, I am not certain what he means by politicising his trip. Any such UN envoy, in accordance with his/her mandate, is expected to see all relevant parties to the conflict. In any case, Burmese exile community responded Secretary-General's new choice of envoy with considerable lack of interest -- that in some way served Mr Ismail's request.

Personally, I am rather surprised at the Secretary-General's choice of Mr Ismail as new envoy. This is because Mr Ismail is also working as an advisor to Malaysian PM. We are not to dispute the integrity of Mr Ismail, to whom UN Secretary-General is entrusted as his envoy. On the otherhand, I have rather uneasy feelings about the political influence of any country that is so close to Burmese junta. My personal view is that, for a successful mediation of internal dispute, one would need a neutral and independent envoy. As an exile political activist, my memory is still afresh about how Malaysian PM Mahatir Mohammad and the then Singaporian PM Lee Kuan Yu, prior to Burma entry into ASEAN, had putted down against our democratically elected party, NLD. Never the less, this is certainly not the time to get into squabble with Secretary-General. Further, the NLD had reportedly welcomed the appointment of Mr Ismail as UNSG's envoy: at this point, we, the exiles outside, would have no further say in this matter.


The other possible factor that may influence the Secretary-General's decision can be the lack of success of the 'dollar-for-democracy' deal. The Secretary-General is at the stage of trying to save this UN/World Bank plan on Burma. The problem stary-General is at the stage of trying to save this UN/World Bank plan on Burma. The problem seems to be that the Burmese military leaders no longer listening to anybody from the United Nations. Mr Ismail may have been Secretary-General's only choice for the envoy to Burma.

In connection with UN/World Bank proposal, a conflicting signal from SPDC/SLORC was recent six fold increase of salaries to the civil servants. We know that such salary increase may not have come about simply out of the generosity of military leaders to the Burmese civil servants. There was a recommendation by the World Bank to adjust ank to adjust salary of civil servants to keep in line with actual inflation. However, any hint of the SPDC/SLORC subscribing to the World Bank recommendation was offsetted by renewed arrest of NLD supporters recently.


A 'text-book approach' to conflict mediation and dispute resolution is to firstly find a middle ground that is acceptable to two opposing sides. Such approach automatically 'assume' two irrationally opposing sides which held extreme views against each other. This assumther. This assumption could be true if we look at the position of military junta against the NLD and ethnic minorities. In the case of NLD and ethnic minorities, however, their relative stand point is already at the middle path: the dialogue and reconciliation as their primary objectives. Any attempt by UN to formulate a further compromised solution, based on existing stand points of parties to the conflict in Burma, will become in favor of the military junta. The main obstacle to the dispute clearly is the junta's unwillingness to illingness to enter proper dialogue with the opposition. Unless the UN can wield a 'big stick' against military junta, I cann't see how Secretary-General's Good Office alone may be able to persuade the junta. Recent CHR resolution Op.10 (d) and (e) are somewhat encouraging but NOTHING CONCRETE has been, as in previous years, spelled-out what specific course of action the UN system might be taking.


Looking back on events before 1995, i.e. before the release of DASSK, the people from internationarom international political circle, including SPDC/SLORC leaders, appear to hold the view that a new election may have to be held in Burma at appropriate time. People who working on Burma at that time, such as Prof. Yozo Yokota and Congressman Bill Richardson, might have been inclined to focus on such solution. However, as things turns out, the election result of May-1990 must be honoured before anything could be done. SPDC/SLORC leaders' position on a new election may have also changed after the death of Michael Aris: the military the military junta no longer have a foundation to exclude DASSK from future politics.

To my view, simply holding a new election cannot solve the problems in Burma. Firstly, we must give the military their share of power in a new government. Secondly, we must define and include the role of ethnic minority in new governmental structure. Thirdly, we must have a democratic constitution that is accepted by all people of Burma. A new election will not solve these problems. Best solution to all these problems has been proposed in en proposed in "Transitional Phase and Prospect for Change in Burma (5/1/1998)".


From last few years political events, one thing that can be concluded is that no government is sympathetic to current military regime. The Junta's staunchest ally, Soherto government, had already been out of political scence. Recent events such as that of Thailand and China expressing their disappointment about the drug bout the drug problems in Burma; and India moving to expel all military states from Non-Aligned Movement, are indicating that the junta no longer has 'ideological refuge' for its stay on power. The views expressed by these governments are not political posturing but do reflect their genuine concerns on Burma.

Never the less, we can not expect the international governments to simply come out and support an alternative administration. This is because the governments are always conservative in their thinking. Gnking. Governments generally keep the existing structure undisturbed, even if they considered it not worthy of supporting. From our part as exile activists, we must continue to work hard until a new democratic administration in Burma come into realisation. For any activists, trying to get things done in this environment have never been straight-forward. Following, the summary of our political encounters with UN/governments/media over the years. Some of these, the diplomats may necessarily call the 'diplomacy'. We activist hWe activist however should view this as 'political trickery' and 'hypocricy'. As activists, we must always open our eyes and face these encounters with a good sense of humour.

A. Diversionary Tactics: We have encounter with this tactic at the UN regarding with our campaign for forced labor in 1995/96. At that time, a fresh and compelling evidence of widespread use of forced labor in Burma by the Burmese junta. The possible solution is to send human rights monitors to Burma. However, the UNGA decided to open an id to open an inquiry into forced labor. The task was undertaken by ILO (and by the way, ILO done a magnificent job). By the end of inquiry, i.e. 1998, SPDC/SLORC has somewhat modified their own practices, and some of the evidence on forced labor are no longer fresh. This must be seen as UN has avoided from making a hard decision (i.e. sending human rights monitors to Burma) and diverting the action towards ILO.

B. Time Delaying Tactics: This method is also used by military junta. For example, SPDC/SLORC promising the UN/international community to comply with some requests during UN forums, such as the visit of Human Rights Special Rapporteur. But there is no following-ups being made by SPDC/SLORC.

C. Implementing half-way solutions: This tactics is used by all governments/UN and SPDC/SLORC. SPDC/SLORC, for example, invited International Committee of the Red Cross last year to examine political prisoners when it felt threatened that UN may open an inquiry (Special Rapporteur recommended it inal Rapporteur recommended it in 1998 GA). SPDC/SLORC had accepted Australian Federal Police presence, for example, in order to soften the concerns by international commnity about Burmese military's drug trafficking allegations.

D. Media generating their own agenda: On this, we have encountered notably during the 9999 campaign. There appears to be not many, at least initially, from the activist circle expecting/predicting a widespread popular uprising in Burma on 9-9-99. For example, decent journalists like Mr Bertil Lintner had il Lintner had already written, prior to 9999, there may only be sporadic protests -- if there is any-- in Burma. However, some news sources began writing stories about 9999 otherwise, and have created a media hype about the 9999. And the 'media driven' activists appears began to believing what the media have created. This, I would say, media is not necessarily at fault. However, our own activists must have the strength to analyse what media had written about a particular subject.

With best regards, U Ne Oo.Ne Oo.

Bangkok Post -April 20, 2000.

BURMA: UN must send junta a 'solid' message

The international community should close ranks behind the new United Nations special envoy to Burma to push for a dialogue between Rangoon and the opposition, a former UN rapporteur said yesterday.

Yozo Yokota, who served as the rapporteur on human rights in Burma from 1992-96, said the "slightly different positions" that Japan, the US, the European Union, Asean and Australia previously talia previously took failed to send a "solid" message to Rangoon.

These countries should "get together and take a firm position to support the work of the special representative of [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan," Mr Yokota told the Bangkok Post on the sidelines of a seminar sponsored by the UN Development Programme and the independent InterAction Council.

Mr Yokota, who visited Burma several times as the rapporteur for human rights, said the task of a special envoy like Razali Ismail was more important than that of a reporter on the situation.

"The most important thing is not just investigating human rights violations in Myanmar. It is a well-known fact that the most important thing is to [activate] a dialogue between the government and the NLD," Mr Yokota said, referring to the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr Razali, a retired Malaysian diplomat currently serving as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's special adviser on foreign affairs, will go to Burma next month as the new specialma next month as the new special envoy.

Mr Yokota, now an economic law professor at the University of Tokyo, said Mr Razali would have a "better chance" than others of succeeding. "In dealing with an old and traditional country like Myanmar, you need to send a high-level representative," Mr Yokota said.

Deutsche Presse Agentur

YANGON. (dpa - 17. April 2000) Myanmar's military junta arrested 36 members of the country's main opposition party on the eve of the country's traditional New Year festival, National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders said Sunday.

The NLD, which is led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, issued a statement Sunday night denouncing the roundup of its members on unknown charges on the night of April 12 as a violation of United Nations International Human Rights Declaration.

Myanmar and other Buddhist nations such as Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and Thailand began celebrations of their traditional New Year on April 13. NLD executives said nine party members from Dagon, 12 froe party members from Dagon, 12 from Kyimyindine and 14 from Mingdalon townships and the party's township chairman from South Okkalapa had been arrested by security personnel and dragged from their houses in handcuffs at midnight on New Year's eve.

In the same statement the NLD welcomed the recent appointment of Malaysian national Razali Ismail as the new UN special envoy on Myanmar affairs, and expressed their hopes that the recent arrests would become known to him.

Sunday, April 2 9:54 AM SGT<54 _moz-userdefined="" sgt="" am="">

Burma Envoy: UNSG's unusual choice