Sunday, November 4, 2007

UN in Burma: a history of failed efforts

BANGKOK, Thailand -

Efforts in recent years by the United Nations to achieve reconciliation between the ruling military and pro-democracy forces in Myanmar have been punctuated by frustration, false hopes and failure:

1989: Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained and put under house arrest after the military's brutal suppression of an uprising a year earlier.

1998: Peruvian diplomat Alvara de Soto named special U.N. envoy to break deadlock between military and democracy advocates. U.N. and World Bank propose financial incentives for change that then-Foreign Minister Win Aung calls "offering a banana to a monkey and asking it to dance."

1990: U.N. Commission on Human Rights names Sadako Ogata to assess the human rights situation in Myanmar. She is followed by Yozo Yokota and the current post holder, Paulo Sergio Pineiro.

April 4, 2000: Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail appointed special U.N. envoy for Myanmar. He later acknowledges a company he chairs does business with the Myanmar regime.

Sept. 2000: Suu Kyi, released in 1995, placed under house arrest again.

Nov. 29, 2001: Razali say he's "hopeful that some significant progress could be made in the near future."

2002: Razali helps secure the release of Suu Kyi from house arrest and the regime declares "the era of confrontation is over."

2003: Suu Kyi is put back under house arrest.

Jan. 4, 2006: Razali resigns as envoy, frustrated at being barred from entering the country for nearly two years.

May 20, 2006: Nigerian diplomat Ibrahim Gambari becomes the first foreigner to meet Suu Kyi in more than two years amid renewed talk of a "breakthrough."

May 22, 2007: Gambari appointed special U.N. envoy. Suu Kyi's house arrest extended three days later.

Sept. 2007: Protests over a surge in consumer goods prices brings thousands to the streets. The military is deployed to crush the demonstrations. At least 10 are killed and thousands detained.

Sept. 29: Gambari arrives for four-day visit to Myanmar, meeting junta leaders and Suu Kyi. The regime later holds a brief meeting with Suu Kyi.

Oct. 11: U.N. Security Council, in its first formal statement on Myanmar, says it "strongly deplores" situation in country.

Nov 2: Junta says it intends to expel top U.N. diplomat in the country.

Nov. 3: Gambari arrives in Myanmar in another effort at reconciliation.

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