Saturday, August 15, 2009

Senator Webb wins release of US prisoner in Myanmar


Senator Webb wins release of US prisoner in Myanmar
10 mins ago August 15,2009

Webb Secures Release of Yettaw
Met with Aung San Suu Kyi

Sunday, August 15 —U.S. Senator Jim Webb has finished up a two-day visit to Myanmar by obtaining the release of American prisoner John Yettaw and meeting with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Webb, who on Saturday became the first American leader ever to meet with Myanmar President Than Shwe, raised both issues during his meeting. He also requested that the country’s leadership release Suu Kyi from her eighteen month sentence of house arrest following her recent conviction for violating the terms of her house arrest.

“I am grateful to the Myanmar government for honoring these requests,” noted Webb. “It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying a foundation of goodwill and confidence-building in the future.”

Webb met with Suu Kyi for nearly an hour on Saturday afternoon. He described the meeting as “an opportunity for me to convey my deep respect to Aung San Suu Kyi for the sacrifices she has made on behalf of democracy around the world.”

Yettaw will be officially deported from Myanmar on Sunday morning. Senator Webb will bring him out of the country on a military aircraft that is returning to Bangkok on Sunday afternoon.

The 53-year-old from Falcoln, Missouri, has been held in Insein, Myanmar's largest prison, notorious for widespread torture and other abuse of both political prisoners and ordinary criminals.

Yettaw's lawyer has said his client was well-treated, though he fell ill while incarcerated. Before his conviction on Tuesday, he spent a week in a prison hospital for epileptic seizures. He is also said to suffer from asthma and diabetes.

"If it's true, of course I'm extremely happy and we're ecstatic," Betty Yettaw told The Associated Press, referring to reports that her husband would be freed. When reached by phone Saturday morning, she said had yet to receive any official notice.

The junta may have approved the meeting with Suu Kyi and agreed to release Yettaw to quell the torrent of international criticism against Myanmar following the trial and Tuesday's verdict. In July, authorities barred U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from meeting with Suu Kyi during a two-day visit.


by Tai Van Ta

As of today, June 10,2004, I have heard that even after you have forwarded on March 16,2004, the following suggestions in this "Strategy" to many Burmese expatriate groups, including the respectable U Tin Myint U, son-in-law of UN General Secretary U Thant, no action has been taken, because different groups have different tendencies and you guys in the expatriate Burmese community are not very hopeful because Madame Aung San Suu Kyi is usually stubborn in her ideas.

I am very much concerned that all these Burmese groups and Aung San Suu Kyi may be by-passed by events in Burma if the military government is going ahead and carrying out its 7-step "Road To Democracy" proclaimed last year, and after the reconvening of Constitutional Convention suspended eight years ago, it runs general elections in which it would permit some civilian leaders to be elected for window dressing, while it would proclaim that Aung San's followers refuse to participate in the elections even offered to do so . This time, it would re-civilianize somewhat the regime and bring some legitimacy to the regime.

After such elections, the regime can proclaim that the new government is elected and therefore, Aung San's League for Democracy's claim for the results of past elections is irrelevant. The pressure of the international community, mainly the United States, would surely be weakened . The Expatriate Burmese would be in a much weaker moral and political position to make demands for reform in Burma. When the regime changes like that and opens up for investment by and trade with US and other Western companies, the American and international pressure for political reform would disappear.

The Burmese should learn from the following cases:

--The Vietnamese in South Vietnam. After Nixon went to China in 1972 (Shanghai Communique) and could deal with Mao directly, Vietnam was no longer considered "the Last Bastion of the Free World in Southeast Asia" (proclaimed by President Eisenhower), and became dispensable and was abandoned to fend off for itself even though, under the substantive provisions of the 1973 Paris Cease Fire Agreement, the Americans were supposed to continue supplying weapons and ammunitions for self-defense prior to and during the offensive of North Vietnam in 1975 (the so-called formula of "one weapon lost would be replaced by a new one" ), but then they refused to supply, and in secret internal deliberations in President Ford's White House in April 1975, during which Kissinger stated brutally : "Why didn't they simply die away ? " and the Senators, especially the antiwar Democrats, went along with that refusal to aid South Vietnam any more ["they" being the South Vietnamese who were fighting in some provinces during the 1975 North Vietnamese advance, despite the failure of the Americans to carry out air strike to support them--as promised by Nixon to President Nguyen Van Thieu to induce him to sign the Paris Agreement]
-- In 2002, on the occasion of the 77th anniversary of the establishment of the Whampoa Military Academy in China, which trained officers of both the Nationalist Regime and of Mao's Armies, during a banquet toast between the 20 retired and active generals of Taiwan and Vice Premier Chu Rong-yi and the high military officers of the People's Republic of China at the Diaoyutai Guest House in Beijing, one general of Taiwan stated: " World history has taught that we have to be vigilant always, to be wary of the possibility of the Americans' abandonment of us for their country 's interest." Another Taiwanese general said : " There was a time when The United States vigorously defended Taiwan against mainland China at all cost, but the trading relations between the US and China have tremendously increased and The PRC has become an important partner of the US in the war against terrorism". Still another Taiwanese general said : " We cannot consider the United States as a reliable long-term friend. This is our conflict. If we cannot win over the mainland, the best thing is to be reunited with it in a peaceful way."

If the Burmese military regime turns around and offers to collaborate closely with the United States in the wars against terrorism (in the same manner of China and Vietnam and even of Khadafy), the United States government may relegate the demands for democracy and human rights in Burma to the backroom of policy debate. And Aung San Suu Kyi and all the Burmese expatriates would become irrelevant.

The most respectable ex-President of the United States, especially in the world outside the United States, is former President Carter who has devoted to human rights and democracy around the world with so many observation visits ( He is even more respected abroad than the late President Reagan, who took some millions from the Japanese for one speech, and who is only now lionized at death by the American mainstream media who may be right about the American people's love for him for bringing back national self-confidence but who forget about his mistakes and overstate their claim that he brought about the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the end of the Cold War--claim that more balanced thinkers such as Madeleine Albright rejected: " It is not right to say that we won the Cold War. They lost it. The communist system imploded.").

It Aung San Suu Kyi is stubborn and would not listen to the Burmese advisors so much as they want to, she would probably listen to President Carter, also Nobel Prize Winner as she was, for charting a more active role for herself and her followers, in dealing with the Military regime, in a more creative way, as suggested by international advisors and especially President Carter, and not in the same old manner of boycotting everything and remaining passive when events bypass them.


On the strategy to democratize Burma
(suggestions by T.V.Tai, a non-Burmese Asian who is concerned)

As a person who has written a Ph.D. Dissertation in 1965 on " The Role of the Military ìn Southeast Asia with Special Reference to Pakistan, Burma and Thailand", who has lived through the military regime in Vietnam during the Vietnam War (1965-75), and has observed intermittently the events after 1965 in Pakistan, Burma and Thailand (regrettably, only intermittently, because no more time for further in-depth study of the topic) , I have this proposed strategy for my Burmese friends, especially the expatriates, to implement their dream of democracy for their beloved country.


1. The generals were able to take over power only because in crises when the civilian leaders and organizations were weak due to disunity, the military held the coercive instruments of power and were ruthless in bullying the civilian leaders.

2. Once in power, the military men became addicted to it and would come back even after relinquishing it (such as in the case of general Ne Win taking over Burma in 1958 returning power to U Nu in 1960 and then recapturing it in the second takeover). Even in Thailand and Pakistan where there are stronger civilian leadership groups, such as the business class in Thailand, or the political parties in Pakistan, the military kept coming back many times, up until the present time, thus prolonging their domineering position more than forty years after the first takeovers in Pakistan and Burma, and probably 70 years since Phibul Songram, 1930’s, in Thailand.

3. But in Thailand and Pakistan, in contrast to the situation in Burma, there were times when the military had to withdraw back into their barracks and those countries have had intermittent periods of re-civilianization of the political regimes .The factors that favor some role for civilian leaders have been:

a) The existence of an outstanding national civilian leader, as in the case of Thailand's King, who may not be directly involved in day-to-day governing but who may be respected by the military and the people as not a contender for power but a supreme arbiter in case of contention between the military and the civilian leadership groups. At one time, the governing Thai general had to come to the royal garden and squat down with the Queen to the ground to do the gardening as if to apologize for his mistaken acts. Such a national leader would be a check on military dictatorship.

b) The fact that the military leaders have competent civilian advisers, such as for example, the case of Thai Prime Minister Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn having a political science professor, Kramol Tongdhammachart (Ph.D., University of Virginia) who wrote constitutions and constitutional amendments for the regime . This civilian advisory influence would mollify the generals. There must be Burmese generals who are amenable to reasonable policy advocacy, such as Tin Pe during the first years of the Burmese military rule.

c) The international pressure for more democratic practices, especially the US monitoring effort, in the open societies of Thailand and Pakistan, have made the military regimes in these countries less harsh than the Burmese military regime which is a closed society, shut off from the outside world, where the little tyrants can do whatever they want with their people without the world public opinion shedding a laser beam of critical observation on them---in the same manner as little city-state Singapore where the big international powers leave Le Kwan Yew's family and his oligarchic People's Party to manipulate the political process in an authoritarian way.

Burma does not have a respected royal family but Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel prize winner with international fame for fighting for democracy and moreover daughter of General Aung San, leading fighter for independence and founder of modern Burma, can claim the mantle of national leadership if she leaves party organization to other men and plays up more her role as national symbol WITHOUT the daily contentions for power (which the military considers as provocation) such as her travels with entourage (one such travel resulted in the killing of 70 of her supporters in the town of Dipeyin in June 2003). She needs advice from a astute group of strategists to play the role of national symbol, staying inside her house and only making meaningful declarations from time to time, appealing to the spirit of all Burmese (including the military ) for national reconciliation and reconstruction, and appealing to the international community for help in building modern Burma. Play the role of heir to the founder of the country, in the same manner of Indira Gandhi, daughter of Nehru, or the role of ayatollahs sitting in their home and only issuing charismatic declarations from time to time.

To refrain from travel would also minimize the plot to harm her in an "accident". If she wants to speak to the masses, she can try to set up her own radio station or TV station in her home. She should also refrain from petty disputes such as dispute with her cousin Soe Aung, resulting in her being assaulted by the cousin ,who was fined by the Court, but then the Court has a pretext to rule over the dispute and also fined Suu Kyi, thus diminishing her charisma.

On the other hand, if she plays well the role of symbolic national leader above the fray, it may be a self-fulfilling prophesy, because one can detect respect for her among some of the "good" generals. For example ,after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the United States demanded in June 2003 that the UN envoy Razali Ismail had access to Suu Kyi, and a storm of international protest, the generals relented and agreed to their meeting, and during that meeting, Mr. Ismail had observed that Suy Kyi, "feisty as usual" and "in very strong spirits", even "good-naturedly bossing around Brigadier General Than Tun, her longtime military liaison with whom she has a friendly relationship". By dividing between the "good" generals and the obdurate ones (who may now be divided anyway, for being equally mediocre equals among themselves, without a unifying outstanding leader such as Ne Win), she can rule at least as an figurehead arbitrating the political struggle and therefore give chance to the civilian leaders.

b) The international pressure may come from the US in these forms, and the Burmese expatriates should work with the US in that direction:

--offer by the United States to lift the embargo and to look for money laundered away by Ne Win and his family or lackeys, to rebuild Burma in the direction of democratization. The US probably has the technical means to trace these billions of corrupt leaders in third world countries. There are signs now that the generals have seen the backwardness of the country compared to Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, due to their ill-advised isolation from the world, and they may be more open to democracy if the US is helping like that, instead of continuing the embargo.

-- Burmese expatriates should request former President Carter to lead a delegation of volunteers, in the name of Habitat for Humanity, to come and rebuild or repair the house of Suu Kyi. That will create international headlines illustrating the subtle US pressure on the Burmese military for democratization and the occasion can be used by astute Burmese expatriates to come as volunteers to stay at Suu Ky's house to give advice to her at length during the repair period (To lessen the Burmese military 's suspicion, the volunteers under President Carter should include some other ethnic Americans---by the way, a suggestion from my wife, half jokingly half seriously: " I will bring the tools and the skills I now have to repair her house")

c) The Burmese Expatriates should convince the military leaders that they are not interested in contending for power to rule the country, but are only interested in bringing more development and happiness to the people of Burma. They should point out that they already have social position and good economic life abroad and have passed their prime age and may soon pass away --so they are not looking for worldly power for their own interest. They only want democracy and liberty for the people inside Burma. In that spirit, they agree that military, as part of the Burmese nation, would continue to have an outstanding place in the Burmese political arena, especially in keeping the Union of Burma from being split up by the Karen, Kachin and other ethnic groups.

Given the rather late stage in their life, Expatriate Burmese should act decisively now (before time is running out) and in unity for the cause of democracy and development in their home country of Burma.

March 16,2004


No comments:

Post a Comment