Thursday, August 20, 2009

State-run media hails junta as “humanitarian government”

by Mungpi
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 22:05

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burma’s military rulers hope that hosting US Senator Jim Webb and releasing John William Yettaw will help promote bilateral relationship between the US and Burma, the State-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar has said.

The editorial of the newspaper, which is also known as the junta’s mouthpiece, on Wednesday termed Senator Webb’s visit as “successful” and expressed the hope that it will lead to a better relationship between the two countries.

“As Mr. Jim Webb’s tour of Myanmar has successfully concluded, we hope that his visit will help promote constructive views on bilateral relations and hold discussions based on mutual understanding between the US and Myanmar in the future,” the editorial said.

Webb, who visited Burma during the weekend, as part of his tour of five Asian countries, was given a reception equivalent to a head-of-state and was allowed a rare meeting with Burma’s military supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe and detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In addition, the junta also allowed Webb to take back Yettaw, who on August 11 was found guilty by the Insein prison court and sentenced to seven years in prison with hard labour for swimming across Inya Lake and sneaking into Aung San Suu Kyi’s home.

The editorial titled, “Constructive attitude in the area of international relations” said the government by releasing Yettaw has shown “respect for the rule of law as well as humanitarianism and human rights.”

Contradicting the editorial’s claim, Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer said they are dissatisfied with the court’s verdict, which sentenced the Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate and her two live-in party house mates to three years in prison with hard labour.

Nyan Win on August 11, on the eve of the court’s verdict told Mizzima, “We are not happy with the verdict and find it legally incoherent. But we appreciate the intervention by the Minister for Home Affairs.”

Following the court’s verdict, Maj Gen Maung Oo, the Burmese Home Minister, intervened by walking into the court and reading out an order by his boss, Than Shwe. The executive order commuted 18 months of Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence and that of her two house mates and allowed them to serve time at her home.

Nyan Win also said Suu Kyi’s defence counsels will appeal to a higher court for a review of the verdict. On Monday, he met her and discussed their plans to appeal to the High Court.

The editorial’s claim of Burma respecting the “rule of law” comes at a time, when the domestic and international community finds it difficult to digest the idea of extending the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest.

To many Burma watchers, the junta has successfully manipulated Yettaw’s swimming incident to its advantage and found a pretext to further detain Aung San Suu Kyi, and there are no doubts about the junta’s disregard for the rule of law.

In a rare instance, the junta’s newspaper on Tuesday also carried an article hailing the visit of Jim Webb as “successful” and expressed hopes of improving US-Burma bilateral relations.

The relationship between Washington and Rangoon has never been cosy with Washington imposing economic and political sanctions on the Burmese regime over its appalling human rights records and lack of democracy.

But Webb’s visit to the country over the weekend has led to speculations among observers and analysts over Obama’s new Burma policy.

The US, acknowledging that it’s policy of sanctions has not worked on Burma, has stated that it is currently undertaking a policy review.

But on Tuesday State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly, during a daily press briefing, refused to comment on a question regarding the Burmese junta terming Webb’s visit a success.

“I’m not going to try and read into what’s in the mind of the Burmese officials,” said Kelly, adding that though the US is pleased that Yettaw has been released, the problem of human rights in Burma still remains a concern.

“I would just say that while we are pleased that American citizen John Yettaw has been released, we continue to be very concerned about the problem of human rights in Burma, most particularly the fact that over 2,000 political prisoners remain in detention,” Kelly said.

He added that US will continue to make these concerns known to the Burmese regime.

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