|09RANGOON753||2009-11-17 10:31:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Rangoon|
1. (C) On November 25 in Bangkok, ASEAN will host a
"Post-Nargis and Regional Partnership Conference" to solicit
an additional USD 103 million to meet ongoing, critical
humanitarian needs in the Cyclone Nargis-affected Irrawaddy
Delta. In addition to soliciting funds, ASEAN, the UN, and
donors intend to use the conference to convey a unified
international message to the GOB on the crying needs for
humanitarian assistance country wide, the need for donor
access to assistance sites, and the usefulness of a
Tripartite Core Group (TCG) type mechanism beyond July 2010.
These are important messages to deliver in light of growing
indications the GOB will clamp down further on donor/NGO
expatriate presence in the run up to the 2010 elections.
Post requests Department guidance on suggested talking points
at the Conference, including on whether we may announce the
additional USD 10 million in the pipeline for Nargis recovery
efforts (see paragraphs 11-12). End summary.
Continuing Needs Spur Bangkok Conference
2. (C) When Senior General Than Shwe made an early November
trip to the Delta, he declared the post-Nargis crisis over
and gave the GOB full credit for the recovery. Nonetheless,
international NGOs and donors agree significant humanitarian
needs persist in the Delta and throughout Burma. ASEAN, on
behalf of the TCG (composed of the GOB, ASEAN, and the UN),
is spearheading a "Post-Nargis and Regional Partnership
Conference" to be held in Bangkok November 25 to recognize
international efforts to date and to solicit more funding.
Although billed as a regional conference to "share
experiences" gained from natural disasters in ASEAN countries
-- necessary to secure GOB buy in -- the focus of the
conference will be entirely on Burma.
3. (SBU) According to ASEAN officials in Rangoon, Thai
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is scheduled to open the
half-day conference. ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan,
UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(ESCAP) Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer, and TCG Chair and
GOB Civil Service Head Kyaw Thu will make formal statements,
followed by UN, ASEAN, and INGO briefings. Donors will then
have the opportunity to make statements or announce pledges
supporting the Post-Nargis Prioritized Action Plan.
4. (C) UN Resident Coordinator Bishow Parajuli observed to
diplomats at a November 13 preparatory session that the GOB
is "not very keen" on the conference, electing to send Kyaw
Thu rather than the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister.
Parajuli and others believe the GOB may be trying to save
face. With commitments of international donor support still
uncertain, the GOB may not want to appear too eager to hold
out the hat. Also, the senior general just proclaimed relief
efforts a self-help success story. (Note: UN officials in
Rangoon are not convinced the conference is a worthwhile
endeavor; ASEAN has taken the lead, and the planning process
has exposed tensions between the UN and ASEAN offices here.
End of TCG, Expected Limits on Foreign Presence
5. (C) The GOB thus far has insisted that the TCG mandate
will expire at the end of July 2010. Already, the GOB has
restricted visas for international NGO workers and access to
some project sites (Ref A). The GOB also denied a UN request
to continue WFP-led helicopter service to the Delta beyond
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last August. The GOB's standing explanation is that the
crisis in the Delta has passed; so authorities can revert to
the status quo ante for issues like visas and in-country
travel authorizations. ASEAN representative Willie Sabandar
noted at the November 13 session that the GOB has made it
increasingly clear it will allow only "one door" for
post-Nargis international assistance: only through July 2010
and not expanding from the Delta. That is a disappointing
reduction from donors' original intentions; but ASEAN's
position is to "use that door."
6. (C) Speculation abounds that the tightening of GOB
policy on visas and access is in good part an attempt to
limit the number of foreigners in the country ahead of the
2010 elections. Australian Ambassador Chan reports Minister
of Social Welfare Major General Maung Maung Swe was quite
explicit that, after the TCG mandate expires, it will be very
difficult for foreign staff to operate in the Delta due to
7. (C) The UN's Parajuli said he has informed Secretary 1,
Foreign Minister Nyan Win, and other GOB officials that a
pre-election clampdown on the donor and NGO presence would
have huge negative implications. According to Parajuli, Nyan
Win denied the shut-down will happen; but Social Welfare
Minister Maung Maung Swe was less definitive, suggesting
there is "no need to overreact" and offering assurances that
projects can keep running with national staff. Suggesting at
least a degree of positive spin from the situation, Parajuli
reminded diplomats that international donors did not have
large expatriate staffs in Burma prior to Nargis yet they ran
their programs; and since expats carry with them high costs
there is an advantage in keeping expats to a minimum.
Key Conference Messages
8. (C) Parajuli, Sabandar, and diplomats, including Charge,
agreed that the tone of the Bangkok conference should be
supportive of working to meet continuing post-Nargis needs;
but participants should also stress that the crying need for
humanitarian assistance extends beyond the Delta and beyond
the 2010 expiration of the TCG's mandate. All agreed the
conference presents an opportunity to accent the importance
of visas and unfettered access to assistance sites.
Donor Participation/Pledge Commitments
9. (SBU) Most donor countries, including Australia, UK,
Italy, and France, will be represented at the Bangkok
conference at the Ambassadorial level. Germany plans to send
a Berlin-based Southeast Asia assistance specialist.
10. (SBU) According to Sabandar, ASEAN intends to
contribute 20 percent of the USD 103 million requested.
Singapore earlier pledged USD 5 million, of which USD 3
million remains available. ASEAN plans to redirect to Nargis
USD 5 million of a USD 30 million Japanese contribution to
ASEAN. The EU, through the Livelihoods and Food Security
Trust Fund (LIFT), has formalized a contribution of USD 20
million to the Delta over the next year. (Note: The EU
initial intent was USD 100 million country-wide over 5 years;
however, the GOB insisted on the much more modest beginning.)
Other donors do not appear ready to announce new funds and
may focus on prior commitments as contributing to the
recovery effort. Observing that few donors seem prepared to
"pledge" large new sums, Parajuli suggested and Sabandar
agreed not to highlight the Nov. 25 conference as a "pledging
11. (C) Unless Department proposes otherwise, Charge and
USAID/RDMA plan to attend the Bangkok conference on behalf of
the USG. Post requests clearance on the following draft
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talking points for use at the conference, as well as guidance
on whether it is now timely to announce the USD 10 million in
additional post-Nargis assistance approved in FY-09.
12. (SBU) Begin draft talking points:
-- The U.S. Government is aware of the acute humanitarian
needs that continue in the Irrawaddy Delta and other areas of
-- As other natural disasters in the ASEAN region have
shown, recovery is a long-term process that will necessitate
years of sustained commitment.
-- We recognize that international NGOs, local NGOs, and UN
agencies play a crucial role in that process and require
-- We also recognize that for recovery efforts to be
successful and sustainable, the Government of Burma must play
a vital role. The Government of Burma should increase its
own efforts to meet the needs of its people, both in the
Delta and elsewhere.
-- The GOB needs also to cooperate with domestic entities
and the international community to ensure assistance can be
freely delivered, monitored and evaluated. This entails
ensuring a mechanism is in place to cut through red tape for
issuing visas, allowing access to project sites, and removing
other hurdles to the provision of assistance to those in need.
-- The recently announced U.S. policy review reaffirmed the
USG interest in expanding humanitarian assistance inside
Burma to the extent we are confident the assistance is
reaching the people in need.
-- Our experience in providing close to USD 75 million to
Cyclone Nargis relief efforts has proved we can effectively
provide assistance directly to the Burmese people.
(Optional: -- We are pleased to announce an additional $10
million to the post-Nargis recovery effort. This funding
will be programmed by USAID in close coordination with INGOs,
UN agencies, and other partners. At present we have made no
final decisions on how those funds will be used.)
End draft talking points.