Monday, October 1

In Burma UN envoy Gambari shows tenacity and sparks a drama. So is John Bolton wrong?

Sept. 30 - BLACKPOOL, England (XFN-ASIA) - China is the key to political change in Myanmar, not UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari who has met the military junta, the former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said here.

But there was no sign that Beijing would change tack and pressure the junta, Bolton told BBC television [...]

'I think it's very unclear that (Gambari) will be able to achieve anything. I have a lot of respect for Ibrahim Gambari personally but he's in a very difficult position because the Security Council is divided,' he said.

'When we tried to get Burma (Myanmar) on the (UN) Security Council agenda last year, China voted against it. They didn't even want the council to discuss it. I don't see any real indication that anything has changed,' he said.[...]
Actually, China has already done a lot by insisting to the junta that a UN envoy be allowed to visit and by arranging for him to visit Naypyidaw, which provides the envoy's only chance to meet with Than Shwe. And Gambari has already accomplished a great deal. In addition to wangling a one-hour meeting with 'Auntie Suu,' he's managed to -- well, hang on:
YANGON [Rangoon], Oct 1 (Reuters)- Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari on Monday after he flew to Myanmar's new jungle capital to persuade the junta to end its crackdown on the biggest pro-democracy protests in 20 years. [...]

United Nations officials with Gambari were outside mobile phone coverage, the U.N. office in Yangon had not heard a word, and no other diplomats in the former capital could shed any light on his whereabouts. [...]

The only certain thing about Gambari, a former Nigerian foreign minister, is that he was still in the country 48 hours after his arrival, a prospect that did not look likely when he arrived.

British ambassador Mark Canning said China had pushed for Gambari's mission to be as long and as far-reaching as possible, getting permission for him to fly to Naypyidaw where he met the acting Prime Minister and Information and Cultural Ministers.

He then returned to Yangon for an hour with opposition leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest and incommunicado for nearly 12 of the last 18 years.

His immediate return to Naypyidaw sparked hopes of the seeds of "shuttle diplomacy" between a military that has been in charge for the last 45 years, and Suu Kyi's democracy camp.

"There's been an evolution in his programme. The initial pitch was minimalist. It's got a bit better, and we want to see it get better still," Canning told Reuters.

The U.N. made clear on Sunday Gambari did not plan to leave without seeing Than Shwe, whose troops are stationed on street corners across Yangon, making it impossible even for small crowds of demonstrators to assemble. [...]
AGI reported about an hour ago that Gambari is back in Naypyidaw, and that sources in the Burmese regime confirmed that he will meet Than Shwe on Tuesday.

Note that by making Gambari wait to see him, Than Shwe has made another tactical error. That helps to keep the plight of Burma's civilians in the world news and gives more fodder to Than Shwe's opponents in the regime.

I appreciate Bolton's points but when you're starting from zero, getting to square one is an achievement -- and every bit of effort is more than nothing, including a UN effort. The difference between last year and now is that the world outside Burma's door was not engaged with the plight of the Burmese under their government, and today it is.

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