People of 2006
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, July 15, 2019


People of 2006

By The Irrawaddy DECEMBER, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.12

(Page 8 of 12)

Prior to his second visit in November, Gambari went to China in late October to meet Beijing’s senior officials and to discuss conflict prevention, peacemaking and peace-building around the world, including Burma.

Gambari’s November visit focused on raising key issues, such as a more transparent and inclusive political process, the release of political prisoners, more access for humanitarian assistance and the plight of ethnic Karen who have been forced from their homes because of armed conflicts. He also observed the junta-sponsored National Convention and again met junta officials and opposition members, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

—Aung Lwin Oo

Wang Guangya

Defending the regime

By Thakin Chan Tun

Western-educated Wang Guangya, 56, is one of a new generation of Chinese diplomats. He assumed his post as permanent representative to the UN three years ago. Unlike China’s old idealogues, he is considered a good communicator and friendly with the media. When it comes to issues of repressive regimes around the world, however, Wang quickly goes to ground.

After persistent lobbying by the US, the UN Security Council conducted its first briefing on Burma last December. Subsequently, the council—again under pressure by the US—decided to add Burma to its formal agenda in September this year, over the strong objections and a veto by China. Wang described the move as “preposterous” and maintained: “To force the Security Council to intervene is not only inappropriate but will further complicate the situation.”

China has for many years been the Burmese junta’s principal defender, and Wang’s objections were anticipated. He has stated openly that his instructions from Beijing are clear: unequivocal support of their unruly neighbor within the Security Council. China’s opposition to Washington’s moves to address Burma—including its likely veto of any resolution on Burma—has raised concerns among pro-democracy groups in Burma and abroad.

 John Bolton

Undiplomatic diplomat

Washington’s top diplomat to the UN, John Bolton, 58, faces an uphill battle to maintain his position, since US Democrats won control of Congress and want to see him go. Many pro-democracy Burmese opposition groups do not want to see his departure, however. Confronted by belligerent regimes such as Iran, North Korea and Burma, in particular, his blunt and outspoken style at the UN is viewed as positive.

Unlike his predecessors, Bolton has aggressively pushed the Burma issue before the world body during his one-year tenure, and he played a key role in bringing Burma before the UN Security Council.

A Yale graduate, Bolton served as under secretary of state for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005, and he has a great deal of experience in dealing with repressive regimes and the threat they pose to global security. Friends and foes alike view him as a formidable diplomat. “Professionally he is capable—he is effective,” his Chinese counterpart, Wang Guangya, says.

A staunch supporter of human rights, he may be an undiplomatic diplomat, but it is indisputable that he has contributed greatly to the Burmese democracy movement as well as to the UN.

Thakin Chan Tun, a veteran politician and former Burmese ambassador to China, lives in Rangoon

Robert Taylor

Misguided optimist

By David Scott Mathieson

The legacy for Robert Taylor’s academic contribution to Burma may be the disjunction between scholarly rigor and consistently erroneous, if optimistic, insight. Derided as a “pro-engagement academic,” Taylor has carved a career as a contrarian to democratic aspirations, even at the risk of appearing too close to a succession of ruthless Burmese military figures.

Chummy with one of the late dictator Ne Win’s wives, supportive of former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt’s policies from 2001 to 2004 and the regime’s “road map” to democracy, Taylor has always argued that access to military elites is more important than common grievances and human rights. He has impressive inside connections that have regularly produced curious conclusions.

His notorious championing of the socialist government’s legitimacy in 1987 was dealt a blow by the student-led uprising a year later. Since then he has endorsed successive military regimes, claiming they embody authentic Burmese patterns of rule, and congratulating the State Peace and Development Council on piecemeal reforms while unconvincingly whitewashing their extensive crimes. Working as a consultant for Premier Oil, European governments and private foundations, all with commercial stakes in opening Burma, hasn’t helped his reputation in retirement.

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