Snippets from Top Secret Talks

22.07.09 13:39



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Snippets from Top Secret Talks
By SHWE YOE Saturday, July 18, 2009

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“I’ve received a copy of a very confidential CD,” said the barber, as he cut the customer’s hair. “What’s that?” asked the customer, all ears. “You’ve got a copy of those photographs and video footage of the tunnel construction projects in and around Naypyidaw?” “No, not that. Just listen to this,” said the barber, putting the CD into his Chinese-made player. For the next 10 minutes, the only noise in the barber’s shop was the sound of a discussion between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Snr-Gen Than Shwe evidently recorded on the second day of the UN chief’s visit to Burma. Ban sounded weak and seemingly in despair. The general, on the other hand, seemed happier, stronger and competitive. Than Shwe: You said the same thing yesterday. Don't you have any other matter to raise? Ban Ki-moon: I’m saying that Burma could enjoy democracy if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were released…


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Than Shwe: I’ve said a hundred times over—we have a roadmap and we’re keeping to it, in the interests of everybody. I can't release her and I can't allow you to meet with her. That's it. Ban Ki-moon: Then my visit to Burma is a waste. Than Shwe: Oh, don’t take it like that. You’ve met me twice, haven’t you? That was a great opportunity for you. Now, don’t get annoyed. The head of the UN must display diplomacy, right? Ban Ki-moon (his voice displaying only frustration): My visit here really is a waste of time. It might not be for you, of course. You can say that you allowed me to meet you twice and that you are cooperating fully with the UN. Isn't that true? A silence is broken after a while by a dry, cynical laugh from the general. Ban Ki-moon: You can laugh now, but for how long? Can’t you see what is happening in your country? People are poverty-stricken. Can’t you see that? Than Shwe: That is why I relocated my capital to Naypyidaw (he laughs again.) Ban Ki-moon: You shouldn’t laugh. People in Rangoon are saying that Nga-Shwe cares only about himself". The sound of a table being thumped is heard. Than Shwe has evidently lost his patience. Than Shwe: How dare you? No one calls me that. (Editor's note: In the time of the Burmese kingdoms, Nga was usually put in front of the names of all commoners but was never used when referring to members of the royal family.) Ban Ki-moon: That is why you are so difficult. Than Shwe: Who said that? Just give me the names of those who are slandering me like

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Snippets from Top Secret Talks

22.07.09 13:39

that? Give me those names and I will allow you to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. Ban Ki-moon: I don’t know these names. Please be calm. It is not appropriate for you to behave like this. The whole world is looking at you, so now it is time to show you are amenable and ready to make changes. Than Shwe: That is so easy, Mr. Kimchi. (Editor's note: Kimchi is the traditional Korean pickled dish made of seasoned vegetables.) Ban Ki-moon: I must remind you that my name is Ban. Ban Ki-moon. Than Shwe: OK. I don't care what your name is. The only Korean word I know is Kimchi. So, Mr. Kimchi, we have detained many people and I am not against the idea of freeing a few thousand. Ban Ki-moon: In that case, I will support your "road-less map." Whoops—slip of the tongue. I will support your elections, as set out in the road-map, but you must release prisoners in return. Now, Daw Aung San…. Than Shwe (interrupting): "By the way, what do you know about what the Americans have in store for us? Ban Ki-moon: Oh, your problems are just a minor issue that adds to their headaches. They don't know how to proceed. That is why they have been reiterating that they are rewriting their policy on Burma. Than Shwe: Well, that’s good to know. I haven’t yet finished digging my tunnels. Ban Ki-moon laughs. Than Shwe: What’s so funny? Ban Ki-moon: I find it amusing that while other countries are striving to go into cyberspace by setting up the World Wide Web or Internet, you are trying so hard to penetrate into the earth (he laughs uncontrollably.) Than Shwe: Oh, stop it! I have no time to listen to your laughter. I have an appointment with the astrologer and I have to watch some Chinese martial art movies and Korean soap opera. So, is there anything else you want to discuss with me? Ban Ki-moon: I repeat my plea—release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. That’s my only demand. Than Shwe: Why are you so insistent in this matter? Ban Ki-moon: People are criticizing me for touring the world without bringing home any results. They’re even calling me a "UN tourist". My next term for UN Secretary-General could be in jeopardy. Now, if you’d only free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi you’d really be doing me a favor. Than Shwe: But look at it from my perspective.
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