15 JULY 2009
|DISASTROUS MYANMAR VISIT. LEGITIMATIZED MILITARY
DESPOT, RUBBER-STAMPED IN ADVANCE FORTHCOMING "ELECTIONS," SURRENDED ON AUNG SAN SUU KYI, AND NOT EVEN A FLOWER ON
U THANT'S GRAVE
The first U.N. Asian Secretary General would have firmly rebuked his successor anyway. A
straightforward master of integrity and courage, U Thant would have very politely and calmly told Ban Ki-moon
that he was playing into the hands of the military junta.
Master Thant had just retired when the military coup took place in his country. He then refused to return home under
their illegitimate rule. Only as a dead body he was flown to Yangoon via Beirut, where a former young aide of his, stood in lonely vigil, on a
windy January night.
The first Asian Secretary General (and the first to come from a small member state) realized that U.N. credibility
and its valuable role could only be maintained when its leader stood up as equal to other heads of state on questions
of human dignity and freedom. Of course, he resorted to realistic policies, but he placed principled limits. Expediency?
Maybe, sometimes. Public surrender to military ventures? No. U Thant even stood up to the U.S. government on Vietnam
to the point that President Johnson boycotted a General Assembly Session; he equally stood up to the Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe. He helped avert a Third World War as he discreetly yet effectively played a pivotal role in diffusing
the Cuban Missile crisis. He established the role similar to a non-sectarian Pope on self-determination,
anti-Apartheid, human development and people's free choice.
What did the second Asian Secretary General accomplish during his July 2009 visit to the country of his
His request to meet democratically-elected, yet long-detained Aung San Suu Kyi was unceremoniously rejected. Adding
insult to injury the front page of the government-controlled daily New Light of Myanmar described Ban Ki-moon's
with Senior General Than Shwe merely as "social." Here was the U.N. Secretary General, together with a large
entourage, traveling literally halfway across the globe for a mere social call!
Swallowing whatever he was being dished, he explained away that his meeting or not meeting the Nobel Laureate freedom
seeker "should not be a benchmark of success or failure of my visit." If not, what else is? Astonishingly, he volunteered
a further unrequited concession to the military offering an advance rubber stamp for promised future "elections." He
told reporters: "The Senior General repeated several times that they are committed to make the elections a credible
one." Our distinguished leader did not clarify whether he also bought that bridge across the lake that Senior General
sought to sell him. But a member of his team, a bungler in his own right, noted to accompanying reporters that
General Shwe was saying during the conversation that he most likely would be a civilian the next time Mr. Ban
That reminded us of an episode during a U.N.-negotiated Egyptian-Israeli ceasefire immediately following the
October 73 war. Two high-level Generals represented each country. When they were getting close to an agreement, a
senior U.N. mediator insisted that it should be signed not by the military but by CIVILIANS. At the designated
time, having obviously co-ordinated in advance, the SAME two generals appeared for signature in civilian clothes.