Gambari to revisit Myanmar, no Security Council action yet


New York : With the UN Security Council divided over actions to support democracy in a country ruled by a military junta, special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has said that he plans to return to Southeast Asia and Myanmar in early November to see “all people and stay as long as possible.”

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Gambari Friday said his three-day visit to Myanmar was “tightly controlled” by the military and he was not allowed to see the people he wanted to see. As a compromise, he said the government allowed him some liberty but he had to comply with some of their own programmes.

Gambari had planned to return to Yangon by mid-November, but he now said the visit was pushed up so he can visit some Asian capitals and return to Yangon. The planning for the trip is underway, Gambari told reporters after briefing the council about his findings and meeting with the body behind closed doors.

He said he had demanded the military leaders take action on a series of issues he presented them, including national dialogue with a deadline to achieve “results reflecting the will of the people.”

“We want time-bound, concrete and serious results,” Gambari said, adding that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is also “very anxious” to see those results.

Gambari met with Suu Kyi twice during the three-day visit, describing her as “frail, but looking better this time than last November when I met her” in Yangon. He said “deep mistrust” exists between Suu Kyi and the military leaders and the UN is trying to bridge that mistrust.

When asked whether Suu Kyi had called for sanctions against the military, Gambari told reporters he could not interpret what she had said.

Gambari told the council that as of Friday, a total of 2,095 people arrested had been released, including 728 monks, and the government had promised to free more.

Gambari rejected the military’s assertion that the popular demonstrations were instigated by opposition elements and the protests were limited to Yangon and Mandalay.

“It is clear that the demonstrations over the past few weeks are for the most part the expression of deep and widespread discontent about socio-economic conditions in the country,” he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon branded the repressions as “abhorrent and unacceptable,” and said the “unknown predicament” of thousands of people arrested without due process is a matter of serious concern.

The 15-nation council issued no official statement on the situation in Myanmar after hearing Ban, Gambari and council members. The US and Britain called for strong measures like sanctions while China said the Myanmar people should resolve their own problems.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed impatience with the inaction, saying it was “time for the council to do more than listen to briefings.”

In Washington, the White House urged the council to respond “seriously” – including with possible sanctions. The US has already imposed sanctions on the regime’s leadership, including a travel ban and an assets freeze.

“What we are considering is any further steps, whether it be additional sanctions or other types of actions,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Khalilzad said the US is ready to submit a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Myanmar’s military junta, a move supported by British Ambassador John Sawers.

Sawers and Khalilzad said the situation in Myanmar is a threat to international peace and security, but that description was rejected by Chinese’s Ambassador Wang Guangya, who also opposed a council statement suggested by his American counterpart.

Russia and some other council members preferred Gambari’s diplomacy, saying that he should return to Myanmar as soon as possible. Ban said Gambari would return to that country in mid-November.

Singapore’s Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon told the council that any solution to the problems in Myanmar must include the military. His country currently chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has condemned the repression of demonstrations.

“The military is a key institution in Myanmar that cannot be automatically wished away,” Menon said, speaking as ASEAN chair. “If the military is not part of the solution, there will be no solution.”

The Myanmar UN Ambassador U Kyaw Tint Swe, who also addressed the council, argued that Menon was not speaking as head of the ASEAN group at UN headquarters, but only in his national capacity.