The Rwanda genocide was launched in April 1994 against the country’s Tutsi population and moderate Hutus, by Hutu extremists in the government and the army. Approximately 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. The UN and its member states failed Rwanda in deplorable ways in 1994, ignoring evidence that genocide was planned; refusing to act once it was under way.

According to the independent report, commissioned by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 can be summarized as a lack of resources and a lack of will to take on the commitment of the United Nations, which would have been necessary to prevent or to halt the
killings. After the United Nations had failed to prevent a massive human tragedy, Mr.  Kofi Annan said, “Of all my aims as Secretary-General, there is none to which I feel more deeply committed than that of enabling the United Nations never again to fail in protecting a civilian population
from genocide or mass slaughter.”

The question is: Did Mr. Annan make his promise and did he do what he said? The answer is NO. The United Nations made fatal errors again in its mission to Angola, where civilians faced starvation and massive human rights abuse as a result of the resurgent war. The U.N.’s involvements in
Angola, and similar missions in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, were disasters because of the United Nations’ ignoring evidence to the conflicts.

Unless Mr. Annan has learned from those many fatal mistakes, the United Nations still did not prepare to act to prevent acts of gross violations of human rights in Burma. Even though the 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission unanimously adopted a resolution expressing grave concern over systematic violations by authorities in Burma, Mr. Annan as Secretary-General, did not raise to bring actual penalties toward the Burmese illegitimate regime.

Undeniably, the United Nation resolution becomes a music to the ears of the notorious generals in Burma who have few friends in the region, also lent its support to the junta’s new roadmap to military way of democracy. The Burmese brutal regime is enjoying a large measure of understanding and tolerance from ASEAN, which chose to strictly observe its much-criticized ban against interference in member nations’ affairs.

The evidence is that the conflict in Burma has displaced over one million people. There are currently more than 1,300 political prisoners in the notorious jails, many thousands of people in the war zones of Burma, and 4 million citizens have left their own country since 1988. Even many human
rights groups have expressed concern about arbitrary arrests by military intelligence agents, prolonged interrogation, and the torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

Yet the United Nations as the most prominent institution in the international community and has failed to help rescue the Burmese people from a murderous tyranny that has lasted over 16 years (since 1988), and today, all human rights groups are still unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure.

Burma’s current situation is at the most critical point in its history.  Support from all possible sources is needed for the beleaguered democrats in Burma. In that respect, the United Nations, which is the most prominent institution in the international community, can play an important role in resolving the political crisis in Burma.

The U.N and its members must not fail the Burmese people again when they need protection the most.  Mr. Kofi Annan must realize that your help and expertise cannot be effectively delivered from your special envoy Mr. Razali Ismail, or Mr.  Paul Sergio Pinheiro. You must visit Burma and you must meet both sides (Military regime and the NLD which won in 1990 General Election) to re-enter genuine political dialogue that is aimed at returning the country to democracy and civilian rule.

The writer Myat Soe is the Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma.