Burmese Puzzled and Angered by Yettaw’s Release

17th Aug 2009, irrawaddy news,

The release of John W Yettaw, the American who got Aung San Suu Kyi into trouble by intruding into her home, has puzzled and angered many Burmese.

Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Burmese human rights group based on the Burmese-Thai border, said Yettaw’s release came as no surprise. “I think the regime just wanted to use him. Everybody knows that the regime wanted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, not Yettaw.”

Bo Kyi was accused by the regime of sending the American to Burma, where he entered Suu Kyi’s home illegally at the beginning of May and gave the regime a pretext for arresting her and putting her on trial. She was sentenced to three years hard labor, but had her sentence cut to 18 months house arrest.

Yettaw was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, but a US senator, Jim Webb secured his release after a meeting with junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

Several Burmese, both within the country and in exile, likened the drama to a Hollywood farce.

One wrote on the Web site of The Irrawaddy: “Webb’s performance reminds me of Patti Page’s song ‘How much is that (Yankie) doggie in the window” and [a] ‘Saving Private Yettaw’ movie directed by Than Shwe. Perhaps, they might win Oscars next year.”

A Rangoon physician said it was “unreasonable that the main culprit in the case was released but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is totally innocent, is still detained.”

Win Tin, a prominent opposition leader said the Burmese were interested not in the release of Yettaw but in Suu Kyi’s fate.

Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese analyst based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, said the junta killed two birds with one stone by freeing Yettaw. “Now the regime successfully keeps Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under arrest and then they may reopen engagement with Washington.”

A veteran Rangoon journalist speculated that Webb’s success in securing Yettaw’s release was “part of the packages from America to restore a normal relationship with the regime.”

Speculation continued that Yettaw’s venture had been orchestrated—also with help from the US—to create a legal case against Suu Kyi. There were suggestions, not supported by hard evidence, that Yettaw had been paid by the regime to undertake it.

Yettaw claimed he entered Suu Kyi’s home to warn her after dreaming that she was in danger of assassination.

For his part, Senator Webb said in Rangoon: “I believe he (Yettaw) was probably motivated by good intentions but he committed a very serious violation in this country.”

Webb found good words to say to the regime about its role in the drama. “It was a good gesture from your country to our country for humanitarian reasons to allow him [Yettaw] to return to his family,” he told the junta.

Not only Yettaw’s family rejoiced at his release. One source at Insein Prison, where Yettaw spent the past three months—much of the time in the prison hospital—told The Irrawaddy anonymously: “He complained all the time.”


US Senator Meets Than Shwe, Suu Kyi

irrawaddy news, 15 Aug 2009

The head of the Burmese military junta, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, met with pro-engagement American Senator Jim Webb in Naypyidaw today and allowed the senator to meet with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reports said that Than Shwe met with the Democratic senator in the Burmese capital on Saturday morning. No further details were released by either Burmese or US officials. Webb is scheduled to hold a press conference at Rangoon’s international airport on Sunday, according to his official Web site.

On Saturday afternoon, Webb flew from Naypyidaw to Rangoon to meet with Suu Kyi. Sources in Rangoon said Suu Kyi was taken from her lakeside residence to a government guesthouse to meet with Webb.

Khin Maung Swe, a spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy that the party had been informed of the meeting between Suu Kyi and Webb, but declined to provide any further information.

He added that the party did not expect Webb’s visit to bring any big changes. “It’s too early to say if Mr. Webb’s visit will have a major impact on Burma or Washington’s Burma policy,” he said.

A journalist in Rangoon who spoke on condition of anonymity said that security has been tight on Rangoon’s University Avenue, where Suu Kyi lives, since this morning.

During his meeting with Than Shwe, Webb likely discussed next year’s planned elections, the fate of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and US sanctions on Burma. Observers and diplomats said China’s growing influence in Burma was probably another topic of discussion.

At a senate hearing in July, Webb hinted that the new US administration of President Barack Obama was considering a different approach to Burma from that of his predecessor, but emphasized that Washington’s policy would continue to be based on developments in Burma.

“[W]e are in a situation right now where I think what they have recently done with Aung San Suu Kyi has dramatically hurt their ability to reach out and perhaps see a different type of treatment from the United States,” Webb said.

Burma’s state-run-newspapers reported a meeting between Webb and Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein on Friday as the front-page story on Saturday. The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, Minister for Culture Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint, Science and Technology Minister U Thaung—who formerly served as Burma’s ambassador to the US—and Aung Toe, the chairman of the Commission of Drafting the State Constitution.

Webb also held a separate meeting on the military-backed 2008 constitution with Aung Toe and three other members of the constitution-drafting committee on Friday. Prior to his visit, he expressed an interest in the constitution, which was approved last year in a referendum widely dismissed as a sham.

“Assuming that Burma would honor the items that are in its proposed constitution, which move, however imperfectly, toward a multi-party systems and elections—open elections—I assume that would be supported,” Webb said in the US senate in July.

Webb probably also expressed concern about China’s growing clout in Burma when he met with Than Shwe, according to diplomatic sources.

A critic of US sanctions on Burma, Webb has previously noted that “As the United States continues its attempt to isolate Burma due to the human rights policies of its military regime, China’s influence has grown exponentially.”

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