The Myanmar government has unsurprisingly responded furiously to the US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton’s attempt to put Myanmar on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council.
Last week (9 September 2006), the Myanmar state newspaper, New Light of Myanmar published an article criticising the US, saying, “The obvious thing is the demand of the US ambassador is nothing more than a repeated political ploy to apply pressure on Myanmar while ignoring all the objective developments and changes taking place in the country.”
The long article in the New Light of Myanmar attributed Bolton’s actions to lobbying efforts by a group, NCGUB led by two Myanmar expatriates and a small group of US Congressmen. The article highlighted the various improvements in various aspects such as the reduction of violence in the border areas, outflow of refugees, degree of success in tackling narcotic drugs, efforts to tackle HIV/ AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Over the weekend (10 September 2006), the Myanmar government has also announced that exact date for the resumption of the constitution drafting convention- 10 October. The announcement is likely to be both a response to the possibility of Myanmar being discussed at the UN Security Council as well as, though less importantly, to deflect some criticism expected at the Asia-Europe Summit (also held over the weekend).
The Myanmar foreign minister U Nyan Win is representing Myanmar at the Asia-Europe Summit this week. The EU has highlighted its concerns of the poor human rights record of Myanmar on the first day of the ASEM meeting. On the issue of Myanmar’s democratisation process, the Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the current EU presidency, put it bluntly, “Nothing has happened. We are not satisfied.” However, the EU’s issue of visa for U Nyan Win to attend ASEM is a move away from the traditional refusal to allow high-ranking Myanmar government officials to attend ASEM meetings.
The issue of Myanmar also looks set to threaten another fledging forum- the second summit between the US president and the seven ASEAN leaders. The seven ASEAN members involved in this US-ASEAN-7 meeting are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. This meeting is likely to be held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hanoiin mid-November. However, there are indications that Vietnam is considering to invite Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to the US-ASEAN-7 summit as well. The US has made it very clear that President Bush will not participate in the forum if Myanmar representatives were present.
Myanmar’s National Convention to Resume on October 10, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 10 September 2006
3rd Roundup: EU Slams Myanmar on Human Rights, Democracy, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 10 September 2006
Coming APEC Summit Tests Host Hanoi’s Political Will, The Straits Times, 9 September 2006
Burma at the United Nations Security Council, Bangkok Post, 9 September 2006
Myanmar Criticises US Demand on Security Council Discussion, Indo-Asian News Service, 9 September 2006
The Conspiracy of Some US Congressmen and Axe-Handles Against Myanmar, New Light of Myanmar, 9 September 2006