Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


March 19, 2005

Note: This is the first of three related statements. Please forward to other interested parties.

The United Nations is the leading supporter of Burma’s military dictatorship, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Kofi Annan and his political affairs staff, starting with Special Envoy Razali Ismail, have signaled clearly and unequivocally that they will not seriously oppose the regime’s tyrannical rule of rape, murder and pillage.

This support is even more beneficial than the direct assistance the SPDC receives from China and Thailand. It constitutes a barrier to action from the West and therefore from the entire International Community.

Zaid Ibrahim, Chairman of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus for Democracy in Burma, commented recently at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok that the lack of response from the U.N. to the SPDC’s refusal to see Razali, which refusal is now entering its second year, has emboldened the regime. The generals clearly understand that the U.N. is spineless.

Of course, passive acceptance of this aspect of the regime’s rule – its denial of substantive negotiations with Razali – is not the only way the U.N. is sending this message. There are many such examples.

- Razali commented last October, in response to the purge of Lt. General Khin Nyunt, that the U.N. did not have a strategy for Burma. Now, five months later, the U.N. still does not have a strategy. It did not form a task force, review its options, and create a plan. Instead, it did nothing, while the gross human rights violations in the country continued.

- The U.N. expressed only the mildest of diplomatic disapproval to the imprisonment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo, and the mass murder committed at Depayin. (The irony of the U.N.’s recent granting of Daw Suu an award on International Woman’s Day, but not acting to secure her release, cannot be overstated.)

- Kofi Annan will not raise the issue of Burma in the Security Council, using as his bureaucratic excuse the idea that only one of its member nations can begin such a debate. He obviously views the position of Secretary General as being powerless to initiate action.

- The U.N. will not launch a formal investigation of the crimes against humanity being committed by the SPDC in Burma, which in the east of the country against the Karen, Karenni and Shan peoples arguably rise to the level of genocide.

- And lastly, the U.N. will not even issue statements condemning new and well-documented atrocities committed by the Burma Army, such as the offensives in Northern Karen and Southern Karenni States that began last December. The question is why? It issues such condemnations regarding similar acts committed in the Sudan and Central Africa. Why not Burma?

The United Nations is censuring itself, and there are a number of possible reasons for this. First, Annan and his staff are incompetent. Not only have they failed to develop an overall strategy for Burma, they are unable to formulate a coherent response to these types of crimes.

Secondly, they may view Burma, including the suffering of its fifty million citizens, as unimportant.

Thirdly, if the United Nations were to admit the existence of such abuses, on a timely basis (not through infrequent reports from Human Rights Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who himself has been banned from Burma for going on two years), it would be compelled to act (e.g., b y organizing a peacekeeping force). Furthermore, it would lose its right to complain if another party, such as the United States, initiated a plan to end all the crimes of the regime – and the regime itself.

A final reason is that the U.N. appears to have swallowed the SPDC propaganda that only the military can hold the country together: that if the generals are defeated Burma will break up. This is elitist if not imperialist thinking. It implies that the people of Burma are not advanced enough for democracy, hence we – the United Nations – are not going to let them have it. But this ignores the sincere desire of the many different peoples of the country to form a functioning Federal Union, their on-going efforts to plan and implement such a system, and the fact that free and fair elections have already been successfully held.

Senior General Than Shwe would undoubtedly give Annan and his staff the “Burma Slavery Award,” for efforts above and beyond the call of duty to keep the SPDC in power and the people of Burma enslaved.

The United Nations? United to what end?

A principle of democracy that is now rarely invoked is the idea of “ostracism.” This means that individuals or parties who have not demonstrated that they deserve to participate in a given democracy are excluded from it. For example, in the United States, convicted felons are denied the right to vote.

The United Nations, when it was first established, did not properly address the issue of membership criteria: of which nations should have the right to participate in the grouping and, conversely, what actions would lead to expulsion including the creation of clear administrative procedures by which this would be accomplished. Following World War II, there was no will to confront the Soviet Union, so it was given both a General Assembly seat and permanent membership on the Security Council. Then, in the years that followed, other members, e.g., China, evolved into the next generation of threats. China should have been expelled following its violent annexation of Tibet.

The problem is, Chapter II of the U.N. Charter states that it is the Security Council that must recommend expulsion from the General Assembly. But China is also a permanent member of the Security Council, and it will never vote to expel itself – or any other dictatorship.

Because of this, the United Nations is a failed organization. In particular under Annan’s direction, it is a counterproductive force to the political development of the world community. The Millennium Project initiated by Annan should have begun with this issue, membership, and not only of which nations should be in the Security Council, but also in the General Assembly itself. The U.N. cannot be positioned to make a positive contribution to the long sought goal of international stability, peace and harmony, until it is reconstituted, beginning with the expulsion of all nations that systematically and routinely deny their citizens their basic human rights.

Barring such restructuring, the United Nations should step aside and allow the Community of Democracies, established in 2000 in Warsaw, Poland, to take its place.

Closing note: The above critique may appear unduly harsh. It is not. People in Burma are being tortured, raped and killed by the SPDC on a daily basis. Many different news services and advocacy groups, including from the Arakan, Karen, Mon and Shan peoples, and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), document a never-ending stream of the worst possible abuses, and much – likely the majority – of the SPDC’s crimes are completely unreported. The United Nations Secretariat simply does not care. Words are meaningless in these circumstances. If the U.N. truly cared, it would act.

You would think that the U.N. would act, at least by imposing comprehensive sanctions, simply to have the opportunity to organize another oil – or natural gas – for food program.