January 9, 2006

Myanmar faces collision course with UN: envoy

By Clarence Fernandez

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Myanmar's military regime could
find itself on a collision course with the United Nations
Security Council by turning a deaf ear to a growing global
chorus for political reform, a UN diplomat said on Monday.

Former Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail, who gave up his
post as UN special envoy to Myanmar when his contract expired
on January 3, said the Security Council took a small step in
showing its concern by holding an informal meeting on Myanmar
last month.

"The longer the regime is obdurate, and the more people
hear about problems from within, and if ASEAN cannot make an
impact or influence, then one way or another it leads to the
Security Council," Razali told Reuters in a telephone

Decisions of the 15-nation council can be binding on all UN

Razali said Myanmar's generals seemed to be digging in
their heels against demands for reform from colleagues in the
10-member Association of South East Asian Nations, as well as
the United Nations.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to see a situation
where clear steps toward national reconciliation and democracy
would take place and the UN is being kept at bay, as it were,
as much as possible," he added.

In Yangon, Myanmar's opposition National League for
Democracy said Razali's resignation would have little impact,
and urged UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to find a replacement
for him.

"I think Mr. Kofi Annan will find someone acceptable to the
SPDC," party secretary U Lwin told Reuters, referring to the
junta by its formal name, the State Peace and Development


Razali said he stepped down from his job as Secretary
General Kofi Annan's special envoy because the junta had not
let him visit Myanmar for 23 months.

Nevertheless, the UN must continue trying to engage Myanmar
in dialogue, he said.

"It's not that there are not enough people," he said. "The
question is, if those people are picked and they still will not
be allowed to get in and do the things that I used to do before
-- meeting all the political parties -- then what have you got
yourself to?

"At the same time, the UN must remain as engaged as
possible with Myanmar. It's not a question of closing the

Last month, a senior UN official told the Security Council
that the junta was throwing political dissidents into jail,
denying people human rights and democracy and creating a food
crisis. It was the body's first such meeting on Myanmar.

The United States and other Western nations have mounted an
unsuccessful campaign to put Myanmar formally on the agenda of
the Security Council, which could lead to resolutions of
condemnation and raise pressure on the Yangon government.


Other countries, including China, Japan, Russia and
Algeria, oppose this, saying the council is intruding in areas
beyond its mandate of international peace and security. They
say human rights abuses in Myanmar are being handled by other
UN bodies, such as the General Assembly.

Razali said that despite such efforts, Myanmar would figure
in Security Council deliberations, even if not in a formal way.

"There will be a strong effort by countries like China and
others to prevent this from happening, but it may go in that
direction ... though I don't think in terms of a proper, formal
thing," he said.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations has
also stepped up criticism of the junta for failing to free
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other dissidents and for
not moving toward a more democratic system.

Indonesia, the largest country in Southeast Asia, was the
most recent to weigh in, saying last week that Myanmar's
foot-dragging had hurt stability across the region.

Myanmar on Friday put off a planned visit by an ASEAN
delegation to assess democratic reforms. It said the government
was too busy moving to a new administrative capital, Pyinmana,
in jungle-clad mountains 200 miles north of Yangon.