Thoughts of Former UN Envoy
covering burma and southeast asia
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thoughts of Former UN Envoy

By Razali Ismail [2005] Tuesday, January 10, 2006

(Page 2 of 2)

The UN must ask itself the question whether, in that event, you would want to do it, because if it does it for anything less, it is opening itself up to a lot of questions.

If the Senior General [Than Shwe] has a personal dislike for me…then another fellow perhaps can be found…that would be more palatable to him.

The UN has to represent other things also. There are serious humanitarian problems that can come up…even more serious in the future. So it is not as if the UN can close the door. The UN must find a way to bring funds to Myanmar [Burma] and it’s hard dealing with Myanmar [Burma] without dealing with the government. So that’s the other aspect of it.

Q: There has been an extended period of paralysis as far as you and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Sergio Pinheiro are concerned. Is there a chance the UN envoy system will be overhauled in Burma’s case?

A: I am a creature of the [UN] General Assembly on that last paragraph of the resolution…to work for the offices of the secretary general. Pinheiro is totally a human rights creature. At this moment, he has not been there [Burma] longer than me, so I don’t know what he wants to do, and I am sure if the Human Rights Commission is overhauled they would look at what the human rights special envoy would have to do. I feel overall it would mean bringing the Security Council to be more involved in the Human Rights Council.

Q: Could the UN tie failure to meet basic expectations of progress by the government—including the granting of visas to special envoys—to UN Security Council action?

A: [Laughs] Well, define action. I don’t know, but I think the Asean countries would be frantically opposed to that and so would, of course, obviously China, India…I think if things don’t change and things get really bad, then it may go in that direction. I don’t know.

Q: Isn’t there a way, though, that the UN can apply more pressure to get the special envoys into the country?

A: Allowed into the country? I mean if the next person comes in… he is not allowed to see the government—that’s not going to help. I mean, the foreign minister of Malaysia, he’s not going to Myanmar [Burma] unless he is allowed to see people like I was allowed to see.

Q: Do we know who your successor is likely to be?

A: No, no.

Q: When will the decision be made?

A: I don’t know, I really don’t know.

Q: Are you involved at all in the decision as to who will be appointed?

A: Let’s leave it to the [UN] secretary general and his assistants.

Q: Finally, what advice would you give to the incoming special envoy?

A: [Laughs]. Some quick advice. I mean…it’s such a complicated country. Sometimes, it’s a country that pulls you in. There are some things that are difficult to deal with, but there are some wonderful things about Myanmar [Burma], with wonderful people and wonderful scenery, and they have the ability to go forward, given the chance. And, what quick advice can I give?

Well, if he is appointed and if he contacts me, I would definitely spend a lot of time to help him, familiarize him with the terrain and perhaps [he would] not make the mistakes I made.

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