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United Nations warned on Burma engagement

July 13, 2009 (DVB), The United Nations should be prudent in its expectations for progress in Burma or otherwise risks "misleading" the international community, said a number of prominent politically active Burmese groups.

The UN Secretary General's visit to Burma two weeks ago has received mixed reviews, with some claiming that his inability to gain concessions despite apparently praising the government merely handed legitimacy to the junta.

A joint statement released by The 88 Generation Students, the All Burma Monks' Alliance (ABMA) and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) acknowledged the "limit" of the UN's mandate in Burma in the face of China and Russia's power of veto but warned against expectations of change in the country.

"Without unanimous support from the Security Council, your mandate is not strong enough to make the ruling generals in Burma agree to your request," the statement said.

It also warned the UN to "stop expecting" a positive response from Burma's ruling generals in the face of 20 years of failed UN diplomacy with the regime.

"If you continue to believe the empty assertions of Burma's generals, you will be fulfilling the desire of [junta leader] Than Shwe and his generals, who want to buy time to finish their plan of legitimising military rule in Burma through a sham election," it said.

The leader of 88 Generation Students, Htun Myint Aung, expressed his concern that such action would cause complacency within international policy to Burma.

"We worry that [Ban] will say things that can cause delay on the international community's practical action on Burma," he said, adding that the UN chief should "think deeply" about what he relays.

Ban Ki-moon is due to brief the Security Council today on his trip to Burma, and is expected to address the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi's trial and his denial of a meeting with her.

The UN has recently been criticized as being relatively powerless and lacking authority in Burma, particularly given China and Russia's power of veto, and a track record of disinclination on behalf of the junta to abide by UN suggestions.

"The UN's point of view on Burma is totally opposite from the reality and we want Mr Ban Ki-moon to put in more effort when dealing with Burma and get the [Security Council] involved, rather than making requests to the junta," said a spokesperson for the ABSFU, Zarni.

So far it is unclear what steps will now be taken by the UN, although both the United States and European Union, particularly Britain, have tabled the possibility of tougher sanctions on the regime.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw


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