The Rise of Burma's Most Undiplomatic Diplomat
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The Rise of Burma's Most Undiplomatic Diplomat


By BA KAUNG Friday, September 9, 2011


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It would be difficult to find a stauncher defender of Burma's human rights record and more ardent promoter of the country's new, nominally civilian administration than Ye Myint Aung, the middle-aged former army officer who has made quite a name for himself in international diplomatic circles in recent years.

As Burma's sitting ambassador in Geneva—a high-profile position he has held since the government of of President Thein Sein was formed in March—Ye Myint Aung has had ample opportunity to make the case for his bosses in Naypyidaw. Priding himself on his ability to set the record straight, he takes to his task of correcting Western misperceptions of Burma with evident zeal.

In a speech delivered to the Geneva-based International Labor Organization (ILO) in June, for instance, he told his audience he regretted that “even the civilized countries are using the incorrect name” to refer to the country he represents—called Myanmar by its rulers, but Burma by many in the West.

Burma’s Ambassador in Geneva, Ye Myint Aung.(Source: South China Morning Post)
In the same speech (available on the Geneva embassy's website, which has become something of a repository for his views), he also reiterated his government's long-held position that there are no political prisoners in Burma, nor any “so-called labor activists” in the country's jails. “I would like to highlight that action was taken against only those for their violation of existing law,” he said, echoing the official line.

And, in a closing remark, he also rejected criticism of the slow pace of political change in Burma. “The government has been trying its best but everything can't be done immediately like an instant noodle,” he said, displaying his knack for using striking images to make a point.

In February 2009, Ye Myint Aung's unique way with words even made international headlines. In a letter posted on the website of the Burmese consulate in Hong Kong, where he was serving as consul general, he described the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living mainly in Arakan State, as “ugly as ogres,” with “dark brown” skin. By way of contrast, he offered himself as an example of a typical Burmese: “handsome,” with a “fair and soft” complexion.

These comments may not have endeared him to his diplomatic colleagues from majority-Muslim Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Brunei, who reportedly kept their distance from him after this episode, but they evidently did not hurt his career as a senior diplomat.

Perhaps sensing that his forthright manner had met with approval in high places, later the same year he waded into another controversy. While pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was embroiled in trumped-up charges of violating her terms of house arrest by allowing the American citizen John Yettaw, who swam to her house uninvited, to remain there overnight rather than force him to risk arrest, Ye Myint Aung referred to the Missouri man as “Suu Kyi's boyfriend.”

According to a Burmese diplomatic source, Ye Myint Aung's snide innuendo was a deliberate attempt to curry favor with the Burmese junta's top leadership.

“When Daw Suu was on trial at Insein Prison over the Yettaw case, [Ye Myint Aung] held a brief meeting with his subordinates at the embassy and asked them what they thought about describing Yettaw as Suu Kyi's boyfriend,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “No one dared to go against his view, so they all just nodded their heads in support of his idea.”

Not all Burmese diplomats are as gung-ho about pleasing their masters, however. According to a US diplomatic cable from Rangoon leaked by Wikileaks last Friday, most diplomats and civil servants in Burma are “no fan of their leaders.”

After a meeting with officials from the Burmese Foreign Ministry in Napyidaw in November 2008, Larry Dinger, the US diplomatic chief in Rangoon, noted in a cable that the Burmese senior career diplomats, many with prior service in the United States and with their children studying there, “were welcoming, avoided polemics, and appeared genuinely interested in greater contact with the embassy.”

The cable also mentioned the insecurity of Burmese officials, who fear being spied upon by the government.



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COMMENTS (13)
 
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James Wrote:
23/09/2011
It is time to denounce upon this rankless person who don't value human beings and compared Rohingya with ugly orges, can be appointed as ambassador in Geneva.
The first question will be asked to Geneva for accepting such a xenophobic person.

KML Wrote:
12/09/2011
Ye Mying Aung is a visible nasty beast for the aspiring Thein Sein's cosmetic government. Prime Minister Thein Sein should consider twice to engage Ye Myin Aung in the diplomatic frontline due to his blunder in 2009.

Zombie Wrote:
12/09/2011
How much is he civilised to say that Rohingyas are ugly as ogres with dark brown skin. Does he know that what kind of skin will he have in the next life? Who has appointed him as Ambassador to Geneva? Does he deserve this post by insulting DASSK who is admired by the whole world as champion of democracy.

Kyaw Wrote:
11/09/2011
Ye Myint Aung, he looks like from Maungdaw, only to compete with white cap and moustache.

A.M.O Wrote:
10/09/2011
Yes, this guy is not only undiplomatic; just look at his personality - very much like a guy who used to seduce other man's wives ! Isn't it

Maung Maung Wrote:
10/09/2011
Why taking about Ye Myint Aung? He is a mid-level army officer and he likes to be recognized by his his superiors. So he says things to attract their attention as the Burmese saying goes," Thakhin Arya Kyun Danwa (Undue punishment is meted out to please the master).

U Maung Wrote:
10/09/2011
“even the civilized countries are using the incorrect name” He must know that civilized countries are like to used BURMA is a civilized country. Myanmar name is not level as BURMA. Once BURMA is developed and world recognised country, Myanmar name to changed for some reasons by rulers. BURMA mean civilized,Myanmar is look local and internationally poor image on current history.

Tun Yin Maung Wrote:
10/09/2011
It is very good that the sycophantic acts of people like Ye Myint Aung are well documented in an article like this. People like him are as responsible as his masters in Naypyidaw in turning the once prosperous Burma into a place of miseries.Since I am just an ordinary man (i.e, a person who has not achieved any stage of Arhat yet), I am still bent on giving them a dose of their own medicine one day. Since people like Ye Myint Aung are nothing but the instruments of the dictators in Burma, who are giving all kinds of trouble to the people of Burma just to please their masters,the only proper way of punishing them is letting them receive the punishment directly from the general public.So how about having them locked up inside public toilets which have been purposely left unwashed for years. That way, they will get the first hand knowledge of people's sufferings.

Terry Evans Wrote:
10/09/2011
He is an apologist for a gang of criminals that should be dragged kicking and screaming in front of the International Criminal Court to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Moe Aung Wrote:
10/09/2011
These guys only grab the top jobs ordering around professional subordinates when most of the time they themselves don't have a clue. Lately they are trying to replace more of the technical posts with their own in-house products of their military academies and colleges but that will take some time.

There's room to be sanguine over this issue as it should still be easier than when the British left for a transitional govt to run the state machine and even the army. The point is to get rid of them.

lal Wrote:
10/09/2011
ye myint aung should know that he himself is dark same as rohingyas, why disrespect his fathers

kerry Wrote:
10/09/2011
What an appalling man.

They ARE international pariahs... for good reason. Like human lives.

Kyaw Wrote:
10/09/2011
Fail country, full with such mad diplomats, the liars, who are ready to do what ever they are ordered blindly, love to appease the odoric brutal masters. No law, No justices.

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