Webb discusses US-Burma relations with Nyan Win

by Mungpi
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 22:17

New Delhi (Mizzima) – US Senator James Webb, known to be a strong advocate of engagement with the Burmese military junta, met visiting Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win on Saturday and discussed taking forward US-Burma relationship.

Webb’s office on Wednesday told Mizzima that the Senator from Virginia met Nyan Win, who visited Washington from New York, where he is attending the 64th United Nations General Assembly.

“Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win was in Washington last weekend, and he met Senator Webb on Saturday. The two discussed how to further U.S- Burma relations,” Webb’s office told Mizzima in an email message.

The Burmese Foreign Minister was visiting the Burmese Embassy in Washington, where he met Webb. Prime Minister Thein Sein is also scheduled to arrive in New York on September 27.

It will be the first time in 14 years that a high-ranking Burmese official will attend the UNGA, after the Vice-Senior General Maung Aye attended in 1995.

Webb, who in August visited Burma during his tour of five Asian-countries, is also all set to chair a congressional hearing on US policy towards the military-ruled South East Asian nation next week.

The hearing, titled ‘U.S. Policy Toward Burma: Its Impact and Effectiveness’, is “tentatively scheduled for September 30, but it’s not yet confirmed,” the office said. But in a statement posted on the office website, the hearing will be held on October 1, 10 a.m. (local time).

The hearing, according to the statement, will examine Burma’s current economic and political situation and discuss how the country’s long history of internal turmoil and ethnic conflicts has affected the development of democracy, his office said. “Senator Webb intends the comprehensive hearing to evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. policy towards Burma,” the statement said.

Webb, a Democrat from Virginia, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

The hearing will also review the current policy of the U.S.-imposed economic sanctions and discuss on what the US should do in promoting democratic reforms in Burma.

The committee will also “hear testimony on how to frame a new direction for U.S.-Burma relations,” Webb’s office said.

Webb, who met the Burmese junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe and detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit, has openly condemned the US policy of sanctions and advocated greater engagement with the ruling regime.

The US along with the European Union, have imposed strong economic and financial sanctions against the Burmese regime for its appalling human rights record and failure to implement democratic reforms in the country.

But with President Obama coming into office, the US has stated that its earlier policy on the Southeast Asian nation has failed to bring behavioural change in the regime and announced a review of the policy, which according to the state department would soon be complete.

Webb’s engagement approach, however, has not been well accepted by the Burmese opposition movement including members of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party – the National League for Democracy.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Win Tin, a veteran politician and central executive member of the NLD wrote that Webb’s “efforts have been damaging to our democracy movement and focus on the wrong issue – potential for an “election” that Webb wants us to consider participating in next year as part of a long-term political strategy.”

Win Tin, the former Editor of Hantharwaddy newspaper, who served 19 years in prison for his beliefs, said, “The showcase election planned by the military regime makes a mockery of the freedom sought by our people and would make military dictatorship permanent.”

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