UN Sec-Gen Backs Thein Sein

By Lalit K Jha 1 October 2012

WASHINGTON—Commending Burmese President Thein Sein for his political vision, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, reiterated the world body’s full commitment to supporting the process of reform in Burma.

Speaking in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Ban reiterated the statement to representatives from the 14-nation “Group of Friends on Burma,” as well as to Bangladesh and the secretary-general of Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).

The UN secretary-general also discussed the current situation of the Rohingya Muslims with Thein Sein.

According to a UN statement, Ban and Thein Sein met on Saturday in New York where they discussed the recent outbreak of violence in Arakan State, including immediate and long-term strategies to promote inter-communal harmony, and developmental efforts.

“The [Burmese] president confirmed the country would address the long-term ramifications of this question,” said the UN statement, adding that Ban called for concerted efforts in addressing the situation in Kachin.

Commending Thein Sein’s “political vision and leadership” and encouraging him to continue to focus on the reform process and on its consolidation, Ban reiterated the readiness of the United Nations to continue to support the reform process in Burma, including peace-building activities through his Good Offices.

A spokesman for the UN secretary-general said that the issue of Burma, and in particular that of the Rohingyas, also came in for discussion during Ban’s meetings with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“The Secretary-General acknowledged Bangladesh’s hosting of large numbers of refugees from Myanmar [Burma],” the spokesman said, adding that the two leaders noted Burma’s transition process and the need for common efforts to help resolve the Rohingya situation.

Ban also met with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu, the secretary-general of the OIC, and discussed the issues concerning the Rohingya community. “He indicated the importance of the situation in Rakhine [Arakan] being treated carefully because of the potential wider implications of the Rakhine issue on the overall reform process in Burma as well as on other countries,” the spokesman said.

US-based members of the Burma Task Force (BTF) reportedly exchanged angry words with a group of Burmese exiles outside the venue of the Aung San Suu Kyi’s address in San Francisco. The exchange concerned the Rohingya issue, a BTF member told The Irrawaddy, and police intervened to diffuse the situation.

Meanwhile, India has announced assistance of US $200,000 for the immediate relief of those affected by the recent violence in the country.

Urging the international community to lift all unilateral sanctions on Burma, the Indian foreign secretary, Ranjan Mathai, said in New York that New Delhi supported the steps taken by the Burmese government with regard to the Rohingya crisis.

“We would also urge that unilateral sanctions should be immediately phased out so that Burma’s economic development can be accelerated. India has consistently emphasized the path of engagement with Burma to encourage the advancement of national reconciliation as well socio-economic development,” he stressed.

Mathai said India has noted the Burmese government’s steps toward restoration of law and order and ensuring peace and stability in the areas affected by the Arakan violence, and in meeting the needs of relief and rehabilitation of all the affected communities.

“The government has also set up a 27-member Investigation Commission comprising people from different walks of life, including members of different religious faiths and political parties, to enquire into the real cause for incidents and to make recommendations,” he said.

“We believe Burma could play a great role in expanding our engagement into Asean. We look forward to Burma’s planned Chairmanship of Asean in 2014,” he said.

“We are facilitating Parliamentary exchanges between the two countries by sharing our experience. We have begun a program of introduction to and training on Parliamentary practices and procedures for members of the Myanmar Parliament and Parliamentary Secretariat officials. As many as 80 members will be covered by this program,” Mathai said.