Aiding Groups within Nations: UNPO Teaches, Helps Create New Countries

By Ehrlich, Richard | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

Aiding Groups within Nations: UNPO Teaches, Helps Create New Countries


Ehrlich, Richard, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


THE HAGUE - Desperate guerrillas, troubled independence movements, victimized tribes and others languishing in obscurity now enjoy the world's only club where together they can plot how to win wars.

This is the place where American Indians fighting for greater autonomy in the United States and Canada can meet Tibetans struggling for similar rights in China.

Endangered tribes in India and Bangladesh can get advice from Romania's unhappy minority Hungarians. And beleaguered, bloodied insurgents in Burma and Indonesia can talk with their guerrilla counterparts from Iraq.

Some of these anti-government rebels dream of eventually winning a chair in the United Nations as a new independent country complete with their own flag. Others simply want basic human rights.

Today, they are all locked out of the United Nation's Security Council voting procedures and are often ignored by the international media. Much of the world doesn't know who they are, where they live, or why they are dying.

Welcome to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), headquartered in a tidy brick building on upscale Java Street. UNPO's initials give the impression that it is related to the United Nations, but in reality, the club is for outcasts the U.N. refuses to seat.

Representatives from the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations - in the United States and Canada - come here to discuss the history of the Sioux Nation and allegations of "genocide" by Washington and Ottawa during the past 200 years.

Kalahui Hawaii, critical of their domination by the U.S. mainland, are UNPO members. So are Burma's minority ethnic Karenni and Mon guerrillas, who have been fighting against military dictatorships for almost 50 years.

The official Greek Minority in Albania is also here, alongside Australia's aboriginals, Taiwan's pro-independence movement, and Nigeria's Ogoni. Rebels from Macedonia, Crimea, Yakutia, Tuva, Ingushetia and Bougainville also trek to this coastal town in the Netherlands.

A total of about 50 allegedly dispossessed "nations and people" - from Abkhazia to Zanzibar - belong to the UNPO.

"Four new members were admitted to the UNPO in February," its newsletter recently announced. "They are Bashkortostan, Buryatia, the Mon People, and Tuva."

UNPO is outspoken about alleged atrocities against its members.

"Tibetans Used as Human Yaks," a recent headline in their newsletter reported.

The story also told how former political prisoner Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was jailed for 62 years, "survived by soaking his boots in water and eating them."

When Chechen President Djokhar Dudaev was killed by Russian missiles in April, UNPO "condemned" his attackers. Ken Saro-Wiwa, executed by Nigeria in November, was vice chairman of the UNPO. He campaigned for the Ogoni people, who have been UNPO members since 1993, and "stood for the principles enshrined within the UNPO covenant," the group said.

The fate of members is not always grim.

"Five founding members of UNPO have achieved independence and have been admitted to the United Nations," the group proudly announced. "These members are Armenia, Palau, Estonia, Latvia and Georgia."

Most of the other members, however, are in serious trouble.

UNPO General Secretary Michael van Walt said, "A small minority of our members are seeking independence or restoration of lost independence: These include Tibet, Chechnya and others. The vast majority of our members are seeking some recognition of their cultural rights, land rights and religious rights."

Mr. van Walt said UNPO's current emphasis is on the recent mass killing of Rwanda's minority Batwa pygmies by Hutus, separatist struggles in Southeast Asia's East Timor and Irian Jaya, bloodshed in Nigeria, and Russia's war in Chechnya. …

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