Concerns arise over US senator's Burma visit

Aug 13, 2009 (DVB), The looming visit of a US senator to Burma has attracted concern from various opposition groups that it could be used as a propaganda coup by the ruling junta.

United States senator Jim Webb is due to travel to the country this week to "explore opportunities to advance US interests in Burma", according to his website.

If his proposed meeting with junta leader Than Shwe goes ahead, it will be the first time a senior US officials has met with the reclusive general.

A joint statement released by 88 Generation Students, the All-Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) and the All-Burmese Monk Alliance (ABMA) said however that the trip could be bent in favour of the regime.

As well as "giving the wrong impression" to the US government, the statement also expressed concern about Webb's support for free and fair elections in Burma, despite widespread criticism that the planned elections will be a sham.

"We are worried that Mr Jim Webb will only meet with pro-government people and government-backed groups, without hearing the true voice of the Burmese of Burma," said Htun Myint Aung of the 88 Generation Students.

He added that Webb should not "fall for the trick" of elections that are a "plotted move by the junta to prolong the military dictatorship".

A spokesperson for the ABFSU, Aung Thura, stressed that Webb should remind the Burmese government of previous US policy only to cooperate when Aung San Suu Kyi is released.

Webb previously visited Burma in 2001 and met with government officials and business leaders, although it remains unclear what exactly this trip will look to achieve.

A senior aide to Webb told Reuters last week that the senator was unlikely to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was on Monday sentenced to a further 18 months under house arrest.

The most recent senior-level diplomat to visit Burma was UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in July, whose visit attracted criticism after he seemingly came away with few concessions from the junta.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

Leave a reply