Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obama, Ban Ki-moon welcome Yettaw’s release

by Mizzima News
Tuesday, 18 August 2009 13:34

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Untied States President Barack Obama and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday praised Senator Jim Webb for facilitating the release of American John William Yettaw but at the same time urged Burma’s ruling junta to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Obama, in a White House statement, said he is pleased with the Burmese military regime’s decision to release Yettaw and also noted their willingness to allow Senator Webb to meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and military chief Snr Gen Than Shwe.

“We urge the Burmese leadership in this spirit to release all the political prisoners it is holding in detention or in house arrest, including Aung San Suu Kyi,” the statement said.

Yettaw (54) was arrested three months ago for allegedly swimming across Inya Lake in Rangoon and entering Aung San Suu Kyi’s house and staying for two days. Authorities charged him along with Aung San Suu Kyi and her two other live-in party house mates for facilitating his stay in her house.

A special court in Rangoon’s Insein prison on August 11, sentenced him to seven years of prison with hard labor while Aung San Suu Kyi and her two live-in house mates were sentenced to three years with hard labor. But a special executive order from Than Shwe halved the sentence of Aung San Suu Kyi and her friends to 18 months of suspended sentence and allowed them to serve at her home.

On Sunday, Yettaw was sent to Bangkok along with the visiting US Senator Jim Webb. The Burmese authorities said his release was purely on humanitarian grounds considering his deteriorating health. He is currently undergoing treatment in Bangkok.

The UN Chief Ban Ki-moon, according to his deputy spokesperson, welcomed the released of US citizen Yettaw and also welcomed the Burmese junta’s willingness to meet visiting Senator Webb.

"The Secretary-General notes the visit of U.S. Senator Webb to Myanmar over the weekend and welcomes his engagement with Myanmar leaders as well as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi towards a peaceful, united, democratic Myanmar with full respect for the human rights of all its people," Marie Okabe, deputy spokesperson of the Secretary General told reporters on Monday.

The release of Yettaw, however, does not come as a surprise to many Burmese observers, as he was known to suffer health problems. He was reportedly having frequent seizures during his three months trial and was hospitalised at least once.

Meanwhile, the US State department on Monday said while it welcomed the release of Yettaw, it will have no impact on the ongoing policy review on Burma and remained concerned over the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and over 2,100 political prisoners.

Philip J. Crowley, the department’s Assistant Secretary during a daily briefing told reporters, “I don’t think that this is by itself going to have an impact on our ongoing review. Obviously, as we look at the current situation, we remain very concerned about the continued detainment of Aung Sun Suu Kyi and more than 2,100 prisoners that are in detention.”

Crowley said US is continuing to look for signs that the Burmese Government is prepared to embark on a meaningful dialogue with Aung Sun Suu Kyi, along with the rest of the democratic opposition and move towards a peaceful transition to genuine democracy and national reconciliation.

Crowley’s remarks came as Burma watchers filled the media with various opinions and ideas that the release of Yettaw might be a concession on the part of the Burmese junta indicating their willingness to open up US-Burma relationship.

But Crowley said that the policy review on Burma is still continuing and Senator Webb will brief Secretary Clinton on his impression over his meetings with Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi.

“And that will inform what we think is both feasible and advisable in terms of our future policy with respect to Burma,” Crowley said.

In terms of the junta’s attitude on political changes, Crowley said, “we’ll be looking for signs that Burma is fundamentally changing its approach and its policies. I don’t think that Mr. Yettaw’s release is an indication of that.”

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