Viewing cable 06RANGOON56
Title: REGIME POSES OBSTACLES TO ICRC PRISON ACCESS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06RANGOON562006-01-17 10:28:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rangoon
VZCZCXRO3055
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHGO #0056/01 0171028
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 171028Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3929
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0516
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 9307
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 3929
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1410
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3102
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 6408
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4017
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 0532
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0522
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2466
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0140
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000056 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EAP/MLS; PACOM FOR FPA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/12/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM EAID PM
SUBJECT: REGIME POSES OBSTACLES TO ICRC PRISON ACCESS 
 
 
RANGOON 00000056  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
Classified By: P/E Chief W. Patrick Murphy for Reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
¶1. (C) Summary:  The GOB has imposed new restrictions, 
including the meddling of regime-controlled organizations, 
that hamper the ability of ICRC to access and inspect the 
country's vast gulag of prison detention facilities and labor 
camps.  These restrictions "have slowed down considerably the 
frequency and efficiency" of ICRC prison visits and 
jeopardize the organization's overall detainee program.  ICRC 
officials, however, are "cautiously optimistic" that ongoing 
negotiations with the GOB will succeed in removing these 
obstacles and they do not want us to intervene on their 
behalf at this time.  End Summary. 
 
¶2. (C) On January 13 P/E Chief and visiting USAID/Bangkok 
officers met with outgoing ICRC deputy head of delegation 
Samuel Bon (STRICTLY PROTECT) to discuss his organization's 
programs in Burma.  According to Bon, over the past four 
months the Government of Burma (GOB) has seriously hampered 
ICRC's most important activities in this country, those 
related to access to, and inspections of, the regime's vast 
gulag of prison detention facilities and labor camps. 
 
Make Way for the GONGOs 
----------------------- 
 
¶3. (C) Bon said that in recent months the Ministry of Home 
Affairs requested that ICRC cooperate more closely with 
several GOB entities and government-controlled NGOs (GONGOs). 
 ICRC readily complied in the case of the GOB's Ministry of 
Health, the Ministry of Home Affairs' "Correctional 
Department" (Prisons), and the Myanmar Red Cross.  Bon said 
that ICRC already cooperated with these organizations and was 
keen to integrate them into prison-related activities in 
order to improve overall standards at detention facilities. 
 
¶4. (C) ICRC, however, has serious reservations about 
cooperating with more politically motivated GONGOs, namely 
the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association (MMCWA) 
and Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation (MWAF).  The wives of 
senior regime officials manage these two organizations, and 
the GOB has significant influence over their activities. 
Both GONGOs operate prisoner welfare programs, however, and 
ICRC is willing to train MMCWA and MWAF workers as long it 
does not take place inside prison facilities and does not 
impinge upon ICRC's confidential and private access to 
prisoners. 
 
¶5. (C) In the case of Burma's most notorious GONGO, the 
mass-member Union Solidarity and Development Association 
(USDA), ICRC has emphatically refused to cooperate in any way 
or bow to pressure to accommodate USDA interference in ICRC 
programs.  Bon said that the Ministry of Home Affairs gave 
ICRC assurances that the GOB would not require cooperation 
with the USDA, but in some areas of the country local USDA 
officials have insisted that they accompany ICRC staff on 
prison visits.  In November, for example, Bon said USDA 
officials demanded that they join ICRC on a visit to 
Tharawaddy prison (two hours north of Rangoon).  ICRC 
declined and cut short their inspection of the facility. 
 
Overall Program in Jeopardy 
--------------------------- 
 
¶6. (C) Bon said that the GOB has also restricted ICRC from 
access to "certain categories" of prisoners and detainees 
(Note: Bon did not elaborate or identify which categories, 
but ICRC's overall agreement with the GOB provides for access 
to all "detainees of concern," including "security 
detainees"--political prisoners, individuals under house 
arrest, and insurgents; as well as religious figures, at-risk 
detainees such as women and youth, foreigners, etc.  End 
Note.) 
 
¶7. (C) The GOB's new restrictions, said Bon, coupled with 
ICRC's ongoing problems with the USDA, "have slowed down 
considerably the frequency and efficiency" of ICRC visits to 
detention facilities.  He added that the GOB now prohibits 
the ICRC, which also works with landmine victims, from 
operating in some border areas in eastern and southern Shan 
State.  As a result, ICRC has reduced its overall expatriate 
staff in Burma (to less than 50 full-time employees) and cut 
its 2006 budget from $14 million to under $12 million. 
 
¶8. (C) According to Bon, if the GOB-related restrictions 
persist for another month or two, ICRC's entire detainee 
program could be in jeopardy.  He emphasized, however, that 
negotiations with the GOB are active and he requested that 
the USG treat ICRC information on the latest restrictions as 
strictly confidential.  "We are cautiously optimistic that we 
can get back on track," he said, "and we do not want to 
negotiate with the GOB through the press or other avenues." 
 
Comment:  One Organization That Won't Give Up Easily 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
¶9. (C) ICRC's experience is not unique.  Since the October 
2004 ouster of former PM Khin Nyunt, the GOB has imposed a 
variety of restrictions on many UN agencies and international 
NGOs.  Some INGOs, particularly those which have weathered 
such onerous treatment in the past, have found ways to 
survive.  Other INGOs, however, have lost their patience. 
MSF-France, for example, recently notified the GOB that, as a 
result of restricted access to its malaria project sites, it 
will depart Burma in February.  ICRC is the only independent 
organization that has access to the country's 3,000-plus 
"detainees of concern" (including over 1,100 political 
prisoners) and has a much deeper investment in Burma, having 
undertaken arduous efforts as early as the 1980s to penetrate 
the prison gulag.  We don't expect the organization will give 
up easily.  End Comment. 
VILLAROSA