US senator Jim Webb will meet with Burma’s imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese prime minister Thein Sein during a visit to the Southeast Asian pariah this week.
Webb, a prominent advocate for Burma in the US senate, is due to arrive in the country today and will travel to the remote capital Naypyidaw this evening. It is his second trip to Burma in 10 months, following a visit in August last year during which he met with Suu Kyi for the first time and secured the release of detained US citizen John Yettaw.
“He will meet the prime minister and related officials,” a Burmese official, who asked not to be named, told AFP. “He will meet politicians and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi before he leaves.”
The confirmation of a meeting with Suu Kyi comes despite a warning last week from senior National League for Democracy (NLD) party member, Win Tin, that the visit “would not be welcome” by members of the now-disbanded NLD, and that Suu Kyi would likely snub him.
Webb was criticised by the old guard of Burma’s pro-democracy movement for his inability to pressure the junta to free Suu Kyi whilst successfully bringing Yettaw back to the US.
Some also see his anti-sanctions stance as too soft on the ruling generals. Win Tin questioned whether his trip was related to murmurings in the US senate about ramping up sanctions.
A statement released by Webb’s office prior to his departure said that the trip “comes at a time of great unrest in the region following the North Korean torpedo attack on a South Korean vessel, violent protests in Thailand and provocations from the Burmese regime”.
But NLD spokesperson Nyan Win is one of seven senior party members due to meet with Webb. He said that he “[hoped] for small changes because of his visit,” but did not elaborate the specifics of this.
Suu Kyi appears to have softened her pro-sanctions stance over the past year and has acknowledged that dialogue with the ruling junta may prove more effective. The US has however expressed deep frustration at the lack of progress made by the junta since engagement began last year.