MOFA: Sep 20, 2000 at United Nations, General Debate of the 55th session of the United Nations General Assembly – by U Win Aung, Minister for Foreign Affairs

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Statement by His Excellency U Win Aung, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Union of Myanmar, at the General Debate of the 55th session of the United Nations General Assembly

(20 September 2000)

Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to warmly congratulate you on your well-deserved election to the presidency of this historic Millennium Assembly. We firmly believe that under your able stewardship, the first session of the General Assembly in the new century will be a resounding success. This session provides us with the opportune moment to take stock of the track record of the Organization, its achievements and also areas where it needs to be strengthened so that it will be equal to the challenges of the new century.

I also wish to express our gratitude to your predecessor His Excellency Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab of Namibia for the leadership he provided to us in our preparations for this Millennium Assembly and for his tireless efforts, dedication, skill and intelligent management with which he presided over the last General Assembly of the twentieth century to a successful conclusion.

Mr. President,

My delegation is most delighted to see in our midst Tuvalu as a new member of this World Organization. With admission of Tuvalu as the 189th member of this Organization, our objective of universal membership is closer to reality. On behalf of the Delegation of the Union of Myanmar, I would like to extend our warmest congratulations to the Delegation of Tuvalu.

Mr. President,

After the Second World War, under the Charter of the United Nations, we established the present system of collective security. Since then we have witnessed substantive changes in the geopolitical map of the world leading to new realities in international relations. There has been a strong consensus that our Organization must be reformed and adapted to the new realities to enable it to effectively respond to the new challenges. This consensus has resulted in various measures and proposals to reform the Organization, including a process to make the Security Council more effective, democratic, transparent and accountable. When this process started in 1993 we had hoped that we would have completed the reform of the Council by the beginning of the new Millennium. But after seven years of discussions on the reform of the Council, reality reveals that the issue we took on was so complex that it could not be resolved quickly. While there has been convergence of ideas on some areas, in others we have met with an impasse. This does not mean that we should give up. To the contrary, we should explore new possible avenues to enhance the momentum we have gained.

We must make use of this historic opportunity to give added impetus to reform the Council so that it meets the needs of our time. We believe that at this stage of deliberation we should identify areas of possible agreement and build on them. For instance, it appears to be generally agreed that the Council should be expanded in both categories of permanent and non-permanent members. Similarly, a majority of countries tend to agree that the new members should come from both developed and developing countries. While we continue our discussion on other aspects of the issue, it would be conducive to the reform process if we could establish general agreement on such possible areas where our views converge. I trust the future discussions among us would give serious thoughts to these possibilities. We must redouble the efforts to reform our Organization so that it would truly serve us in our endeavour to build a better world.

Mr. President,

As we enter the new Millennium, we find to our dismay and, to our alarm too, that some major international issues persist to defy our collective creativity and attempts to solve them. We must not let these setbacks cast a shadow over the credibility and effectiveness of this Organization. We consider it our primary duty to focus our attention on these questions-questions dealing with development as well as questions dealing with peace and security.

Despite the efforts of the international community peace throughout the Middle East still remains elusive. We hope that the important progress made so far would pave the way for achieving a just and lasting peace in the region. We would like to see an enduring peace in the Middle East which guarantees the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel to exist within secure and recognized borders.

There are many other questions that merit our attention. One such question, I wish to bring to the attention of the Assembly is that of Cyprus. This question has been on the Assembly’s agenda for the last twenty-six years. We are heartened to note that the United Nations is now engaged in another effort to solve the problem. Myanmar has consistently supported the negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities under the auspices of the United NationsSecretary-General and we would like to take this opportunity to pledge our continued full support for the task.

Mr. President,

Let me touch upon an important question which is not only of serious concern to the international community but also an issue on which we in Myanmar place special emphasis. I refer to the problem of narcotic drugs. Nationally it is a problem that we inherited from the colonial administration. The poppy plant, from which opium is harvested, is a plant that is not native to Myanmar. It was introduced into our country by the colonial administration which relied on licensed opium dens as a source of revenue. Since then, this evil scourge has bedeviled the country. Successive governments have been relentless in their effort to eradicate the problem of narcotic drugs. Thus, eradication of poppy cultivation remains one of the topmost priorities for Myanmar. Notwithstanding undue and harsh criticism levelled against Myanmar for a problem with wide international dimension, our sustained efforts to combat the problem of narcotic drugs have resulted in a noticeable drop in opium cultivation and production. This is a fact acknowledged by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Here, it bears reiteration that narcotic drugs are a global problem to be solved in a concerted manner and through global efforts. It must be tackled in a holistic manner. It is to be tackled both from the production side as well as from demand reduction side. National efforts must be supported by international assistance and cooperation. Myanmar has been trying to combat this global problem mainly with its own resources. Except for the assistance provided by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) no substantial assistance was provided to Myanmar in our current efforts to combat this global menace. This is tantamount to making a travesty of the much avowed principle of shared responsibility.

Despite our efforts, Myanmar has been a target of unfair criticisms and censures. An objective assessment will identify which countries are making real efforts to effectively tackle this global problem. An objective assessment will show which other countries are paying mere lip service. The fact of the matter is that the scourge of narcotic drugs is not the sole responsibility of any one country. No country acting on its own can successfully overcome this menace. To tackle this global problem, we must join hands and cooperate with each other. Myanmar stands ready to do so.

Mr. President,

The principles enshrined in the Charter have served the world community well for more than five decades. Sovereignty, sovereign equality, respect for territorial integrity and non-intervention in internal affairs are cardinal principles which remain vital for the peace and security of all nations. These are irreplaceable bedrock principles underpinning the current international system. These are the principles that enabled the international community to successfully deter world conflagrations. Therefore, we are greatly dismayed by the recent tendency in some quarters, casting doubt on the continued soundness of these basic principles.

There are some who are bent on compromising these cardinal principles of international relations, voicing support for interference in countries’ internal affairs on various grounds. This is indeed a dangerous trend with dangerous implications for the peace and stability of our international system. At a time when the powerful increasingly make use of various international fora to fulfil their hidden political agenda a very valid question must be posed. Who determines the existence of a situation that warrants interference in internal affairs? Justifying interference in internal affairs under certain conditions is a concept easily vulnerable to abuse by the powerful for their narrow national interests. Interference even for such worthy cause as humanitarian assistance can undermine the principle of neutrality and impartiality thus endangering the entire system of humanitarian assistance. A well-intentioned mistake can unravel the fabric of the present international system which has stood us in good stead.

Mr. President, No nations are entirely free of problems or difficulties. While some have been successful in solving their problems, others are less successful. There are some situations where the assistance of the international community is necessary to resolve these issues and difficulties. There are others where national measures would best suit the situation. In trying to resolve these problems a proper understanding and a correct perspective of the issue, both historical and current, are necessary. A solution obtained without such understanding and perspective is tantamount to treating the symptoms rather than the disease.

A careful look at countries with ongoing conflicts demonstrates that some issues are not susceptible to easy and quick solution. They are deeply rooted in intra-state tensions and mistrust lingering for hundreds of years. There are instances when seemingly successful solutions causing fleeting euphoria have turned out to be Pyrrhic victories. This is principally because the root causes were never thoroughly understood and addressed. Furthermore, appropriate and pragmatic national attempts at finding a lasting solution should be encouraged and supported. There are many cases where the role of the international community is indispensable. There are also many others where its proper role should be limited to assisting the state concerned in its efforts, complementing only where necessary.

Mr. President,

The situation in Myanmar has been under unfair scrutiny and the subject of political pressure by a number of powerful countries for quite some time. Therefore, I find it appropriate to take this opportunity to apprise the members of the Organization of the situation in my country. The Government of Myanmar is in the process of establishing a democratic society. In this endeavour, it has chosen a path that is most suitable to the country, its people and its historical peculiarities.

Contemporary history has shown that transition to democracy from a totally different and centralized political and economic system is not always smooth. It requires ingenuity, patience and understanding to make the process peaceful.

Here, I wish to underscore that the present Myanmar government is making all-out efforts to solve the most fundamental problem of the country �� the consolidation of national unity. Without satisfactorily resolving this basic question, the objectives of democracy, peace, prosperity and stability will not be realized. National unity will not be consolidated if we could not address issues such as the eradication of poverty, equitable distribution of national wealth and maintenance of peace and security. The people of Myanmar share the view that these issues must be adequately addressed first and foremost in order to achieve the emergence of a developed, peaceful and prosperous state.

Mr. President,

It is at this important and delicate juncture that all sorts of superficial and unsubstantiated charges are being made against us, placing every obstacle in our chosen path to democracy. This line of approach will only perpetuate the existing problems in the country. It will give rise to unnecessary delays in our current democratization process. Here, I wish to stress that it was a situation of chaos and anarchy which had threatened the country’s survival as a state that led the Tatmadaw, the Armed Forces, to assume State power. Although the present government is military government, the country is not governed by Martial Law. The entire body of legislation remains in place and the country is governed according to these legal provisions. The country also retains an independent judicial system.

Mr. President,

Despite all obstacles placed on our path to development, against all odds, we have made considerable achievement both economically and politically. On the political front because of the government’s endeavour to build national unity, 17 armed groups have returned to the legal fold. We have been able to establish unprecedented peace and tranquility. We have also made considerable strides in the country’s economy. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) continues to grow year after year. The economy registered 10.9 per cent growth last year. This growth pattern is expected to continue this year. The effective control of the inflation also resulted in an appreciable increase in the living standard of the people of Myanmar. The people of the country are fully conscious of all these remarkable achievements. They are fully aware that they themselves are the direct beneficiaries of these positive results. The government is determined to redouble its efforts to bring about peace and stability and a better standard of life for the people of Myanmar.

Mr. President,

The peace and stability that we have today do not come easily. It is only in the recent years that peace and stability returned to virtually all corners of the country. What we are doing is laying down a firm foundation necessary to build a modern, prosperous and peaceful country. Far from recognizing the unprecedented achievements made by the government, some western countries imposed on us political pressure and unilateral sanctions. International Financial Institutions are being used to deny us our rightful loans and assistance. These are hampering all our sincere and vigorous efforts to address the pressing problems of the nation and to uplift the country to a prosperous stage. However, we will continue on our chosen path of building a democratic society best suited to our traditions thus fulfilling the aspirations of our people. We are resolute in our determination to develop the country in the shortest possible time.

Mr. President,

In accordance with Myanmar’s foreign policy, Myanmar makes every effort to forge friendly relations with all countries. In conformity with this time-tested policy, we have successfully established friendly and close relations with all neighboring countries. It is a policy that we pursue in our relations with fellow members of ASEAN, countries of the region and all other countries of the world. I wish to take this opportunity to urge those countries, which now have a negative views on Myanmar, to look at our situation in a more objective manner. We are building a democratic society, a society in which peace and stability prevails, a society where our people can enjoy a better life in larger freedom.

Mr. President,

What we urgently need in the new century is the realization of a just and equitable international order. We need an international order where “right”, and not “might”, prevails. In establishing such an international order, the United Nations is the only organization that can provide the necessary leadership. The envisaged international order must also respect the right of every nation to adopt the political, economic and social systems which best suit its domestic context. It must be an international order where the legitimate desire of every nation for justice and equality is accepted by powerful states with understanding and sympathy. In this, the role of the United Nations as the principal intergovernmental institution of universal nature, is irreplaceable. Hegemonic tendencies and power politics will certainly undermine the basis of international relations and thereby jeopardize our system of collective security.

Mr. President,

It is my fervent hope that every Member State will play its part and make this Organization equal to the challenges of the new century. At this Millennium Assembly let us all resolve to translate the ideals of the Organization into a concrete reality through cooperation and goodwill, and firm commitments.

Thank you.

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