UN Special Envoy Gambari reports to Security Council

Oct 7, 2007 (DVB), United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari has expressed concern about the ongoing human rights violations in Burma and urged national dialogue and sustained international engagement.

Mr Gambari visited Burma from 29 September to 2 October to assess the situation there following a brutal crackdown by the military regime on mass public demonstrations staged by monks and civilians.

On 5 October, Mr Gambari briefed the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council members on the outcomes of his mission. The Special Envoy said he had conveyed strong messages to the Burmese military government and passed messages between the leadership and detained opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, Mr Gambari's repeated requests to meet monks and 88 generation leaders were denied.

Mr Gambari expressed concern about the ongoing abuses and mass relocation of monks inside Burma. Following the military government's violent crackdown on the demonstrations, there have been regular reports of raids, arbitrary arrests and disappearances.

Burmese response

The Burmese representative, Kyaw Tint Swe, responded to Mr Gambari's report, claiming that the situation in Burma had now returned to normal after a "daunting challenge".

Kyaw Tint Swe said that curfew hours had been shortened and a total of 2,095 monks and civilians released after security forces decided they had not acted illegally.

The Burmese representative also cited the rallies held all over the country to show support for the National Convention and condemn the "recent provocative demonstrations" as an illustration of the peaceful expression of popular opinion.

However, DVB sources who were present at these rallies have said that people were ordered to attend or offered financial inducements to do so.

Kyaw Tint Swe said that Burma would continue to work towards national reconciliation and reiterated that junta leader senior general Than Shwe had agreed to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in person if she agrees to renounce her "obstructive and confrontational stance".

Mr Gambari had said earlier that he was "cautiously encouraged" by this announcement and urged flexibility on all sides to make it happen.

Reaction of UNSC members

Many Security Council members expressed concern about the military regime's methods in suppressing the demonstrations and the continued human rights violations in the country.

All states welcomed the role of Mr Gambari in facilitating dialogue and promoting national reconciliation.

But there was no consensus on what future action the Security Council will take if the Burmese government does not take steps towards democratisation and respect for human rights.

The US said it would call for Security Council sanctions if no progress was made.

"It [is] time for the Council to do more than simply listen to a briefing. It must speak out to keep the momentum going, end the crisis and help the country move towards democratization," said the US representative.

However, China argued that sanctions would be counterproductive, and suggested that the international community should offer "constructive engagement and honest mediation" instead. China's representative also ruled out further action because they do not believe the situation in Burma poses a threat to international security.

This was disputed by other countries. The UK said the violence was "a threat to security beyond the country's borders", while the Peruvian representative said that the increase in internally displaced persons could have consequences for regional security.

Reporting by Siân Thomas

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