Friday, November 2, 2007

Junta expels top UN official

The junta ruling Myanmar has ordered the expulsion of Charles Petrie, the top United Nations diplomat stationed in the country, United Nations officials said Friday.

The move comes on the eve of a visit by the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, whose six-day trip is intended to support reconciliation between the junta and its opponents. Aye Win, the United Nations spokesman in Myanmar, said Gambari's visit would proceed as scheduled.

Petrie, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, was told to leave the country because of a critical statement issued recently by his office, said Hak-Fan Lau, a United Nations spokesman in Bangkok.

The statement, sent out Oct. 24, urged the government to listen to dissenting voices in Myanmar and warned of a "deteriorating humanitarian situation."

It concluded with a reference to the mass protests that were brutally suppressed. "The concerns of the people have been clearly expressed through the recent peaceful demonstrations, and it is beholden on all to listen," the statement said.

On Oct. 25, Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a protest note, saying the United Nations statement was "unprecedented" and "very negative" and complained that Myanmar officials were not notified in advance of its publication.

Petrie traveled to Naypyidaw, the Burmese capital, this morning to see government officials and was handed a letter as he was leaving their meeting.

The letter accused Petrie of "acting beyond his capacity in issuing the statement."

"The government of the Union of Myanmar does not want Petrie to continue to serve in Myanmar, especially at this time when the cooperation between Myanmar and the United Nations is crucial," the letter said.

Reached by telephone in Yangon, Petrie said he could not comment before discussing the matter with Gambari, who is arriving late Saturday.

Before any statement can be made there needs to be consultation within the United Nations to gauge the implication for Gambari's mission," Petrie said. In an interview on Thursday, before the expulsion was announced, Petrie said he drafted the statement to "help trigger dialog and consultation on the underlying causes for poverty."

"Many of the issues that were raised over the last two months by monks and others were exactly the same issues that we have been trying to raise for the last four to five years," Petrie said.


No comments: