U.N. Envoy on Burma Quits


2006.01.10
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BANGKOK—The United Nations special envoy to Burma says he stepped down from his post because he wasn’t allowed into the Southeast Asian country, saying ASEAN should “make its own conclusions” if its envoy is likewise barred from visiting.

It is a very difficult decision they have to make, to allow the chair of ASEAN to go there on the basis of talking to everybody concerned. So it is not an easy decision to make—one has to understand this...ASEAN should wait until they are ready for it. But if there is no answer for a while, then ASEAN will have to make its own conclusions.

“They did not want me to go there for the last 22 months. I cannot do my job if I don’t go there,” Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail told RFA’s Burmese service after declining to renew his contract, which expired Jan. 3.

“I have other things to do with my life. I am a Malaysian. I’d like to be doing things as I am now—and that’s fine.”

Razali played a key role in organizing landmark talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese government, starting in 2000, and in securing the release of opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in 2002.

Resignation accepted

Aung San Suu Kyi was subsequently detained again in 2003 and remains under house arrest.

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Farhan Haq, said Annan had regretfully accepted Razali's decision to step down but was committed to exploring "a fresh round of interventions" in Burma.

Annan "is certainly appreciative of all of Mr. Razali's efforts. However, he has accepted, with regret, Mr. Razali's resignation. He expressed his warm appreciation and gratitude for the more than five years that Mr. Razali served as a special envoy for Myanmar [Burma]," Haq told RFA's Burmese service.

He declined to say whether or when a new envoy would be appointed, adding:

"The United Nations intends to continue its efforts to solve the current impasse in Myanmar. There is a need for a fresh round of interventions as was demonstrated by the ASEAN decision to send the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs as an ASEAN special envoy. And also as demonstrated by first-ever discussion in the Security Council on Myanmar. So, clearly, there is an interest in a fresh round of interventions, and we'll explore how we go about that."

Malaysian Foreign Minster Syed Hamid Albar meanwhile told the Associated Press that the United Nations’ failure to promote reforms in Burma had put its military rulers under renewed pressure.

'A difficult decision'

He also urged the junta to allow his planned visit to Rangoon on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the main regional grouping that includes Burma.

[Razali] was mostly banging on the closed door in Rangoon... Nobody can get through to those guys... I don’t think they understand the situation they’re in.

Asked about the planned ASEAN visit, Razali told RFA: “It is a very difficult decision they have to make, to allow the chair of ASEAN to go there on the basis of talking to everybody concerned."

“So it is not an easy decision to make—one has to understand this...ASEAN should wait until they are ready for it. But if there is no answer for a while, then ASEAN will have to make its own conclusions.”

'Banging on the closed door'

Dana Dillon, senior policy analyst in Asian studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said Razali “was mostly banging on the closed door in Rangoon.”

“Nobody can get through to those guys... I don’t think they understand the situation they’re in. I don’t think they understand the concerns of the international community. I don’t think that it was possible for a special envoy by himself to persuade, through moral suasion, the regime to give up,” Dillon said.

“What they [the United Nations] have to do is persuade the international community to do something about it,” Dillon said.

The Burmese junta, in power since 1988, agreed at ASEAN’s annual summit last month to allow Syed Hamid into the country to monitor the progress of its self-proclaimed road map to democracy that critics have dismissed as a sham and delaying tactic.

But the military government said last week it cannot host Syed Hamid in January as planned because it is in the midst of moving its capital from Rangoon to Pyinmana.

Syed Hamid said he now hopes to go in late February or early March.

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