Friday, July 30, 2010

Senator Kerry on UNSC Commission of Inquiry in Burma

Yesterday, I called both Senator Brown and Senator Kerry’s offices to ask them to sign onto the Gregg-Feinstein letter in support of a UNSC Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.  Neither Senator ended up signing on, but that’s not the point of this blog entry.  The point of this entry is to express Senator Kerry’s views on Burma and why he chose not to sign onto the letter.

Mac Hamilton, Adriana Jaimes, and Ann Nguyen lobby Scott Brown's office

I called and asked for Frank Januzzi, Kerry’s head of Foreign Relations.  I expected to be forwarded to his voicemail, but to my surprise, they forwarded me straight to him.  I expressed my ask for Senator Kerry to sign onto the letter, and engulfed myself in a 20-minute conversation with this man, who was full of information and incredibly helpful.

He explained to me that Senator Kerry was hugely supportive of US action for Burma, but was hesitant to sign on to the letter for a few reasons:

  1. He thinks that taking such direct action might hurt an eventual return to civilian rule.
  2. As it stands, the junta can’t travel to US or Europe -- would this be too direct considering the fact that we’ve already barred them from entering our country?
  3. Not sure whether this will be good leverage or be counter-productive, telling the current rulers that we want to see them thrown in jail.  Could hurt diplomatic relations, especially if Kerry is a signatory.
  4. Possibility of reciprocal amnesty, similar to South Africa model

I was assured that whether or not Senator Kerry signed on to the letter, he would not oppose a commission of inquiry.  Rather, he was wary as the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, because he will have to work with the junta in the future, and is afraid it will hurt future leverage with them.  He feels that he must preserve bargaining power by not being named as a person trying to imprison the junta.  He is trying to decide where is best to hold his weight as the Chair of the committee.

Mr. Januzzi remained on the phone with me for a while longer, discussing different situations where one might support a commission of inquiry and situations where the opposite might be the most helpful. For example, in Cambodia, where we have just seen four perpetrators of the Cambodian genocide arrested, in contrast to Vietnam ,where we supported normalization and did not pursue incrimination for past wrongdoings.  In short, different tactics work better in different situations, which is not to say that Senator Kerry doesn’t support the eventual incrimination of the junta in Burma, but perhaps not at this time.

Adriana Jaimes and Ann Nguyen rockin' it at Kerry's office
He also took the time to fill me in on what Senator Kerry is doing for Burma, as well as his past support for civilians in Burma.  Specifically, he highlighted the Kerry amendment in the Jade Act, and a letter he is currently drafting to Secretary Clinton, pleading once again for the administration to appoint a special envoy to Burma, as the man who currently is working on the Burma issue is in charge of all US policy in Southeast Asia--quite a large job.

It’s also interesting to note that Mr. Januzzi began our conversation referring to Burma as Myanmar, but changed throughout the conversation as I asserted the name Burma.  In short, I must say that I’m proud that I am a constituent of an office that will take the time to explain complex views on issues such as Burma, and that Senator Kerry is actively working to alleviate suffering in Burma.  I was engaged and treated as though my opinion was truly valuable to the office.  I intend to keep in contact with Mr. Januzzi and keep updated on Senator Kerry’s status on the issue.

-Mac at Smith

1 comment:

  1. It's excellently written posts like this coupled with an obvious enthusiam for something so noble that gives me hope for the future.