August 14th, 2009
02:50 PM ET
9 years ago

U.S. Senator arrives in Myanmar to meet junta

 U.S. Senator Jim Webb arrived in Myanmar on Friday where he is scheduled to meet with the reclusive country's military junta.

U.S. Senator Jim Webb arrived in Myanmar on Friday where he is scheduled to meet with the reclusive country's military junta.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - U.S. Senator Jim Webb arrived in Myanmar on Friday where he is scheduled to meet with the reclusive country's military junta, his office confirmed.

The Virginia Democrat is the first member of Congress to visit Myanmar in more than a decade. It will also be the first time a U.S. official meets with Myanmar's top official, junta leader Senior General Than Shwe.

Webb is chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Webb is scheduled to depart Myanmar - also known as Burma - on Sunday. His office would not discuss what the first-term senator plans to discuss during his scheduled meeting with Than Shwe.

Webb's visit - part of a two-week, five-nation tour of Asia - comes just days after the conviction of Myanmar pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi, 64, was sentenced on Tuesday to 18 months of house arrest stemming from a May incident in which an uninvited American man swam two miles to her home.

The man, John William Yettaw, was sentenced to seven years of hard labor. Lawyers for both said they would appeal.

A Myanmar court initially sentenced Suu Kyi to three years in prison for violating her house arrest. But Than Shwe commuted it to the year and a half of house arrest.

Yettaw, a 53-year-old former military serviceman from Falcon, Missouri, stayed in Suu Kyi's home for two days. He testified in court that God had sent him to Myanmar to protect the opposition leader because he dreamed that a
terrorist group would assassinate her. He was convicted of violating immigration laws, municipal laws and Suu Kyi's house arrest terms.

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday expressed "serious concern" over Suu Kyi's conviction and its political impact, and urged the government to "create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue" with the pro-democracy leader.

Also Thursday, the European Union adopted "a new set of targeted measures" against Myanmar in reaction to the verdict against Suu Kyi. Under the measures, members of the Myanmar judiciary responsible for Suu Kyi's conviction will be added to a list of people and entities subject to a travel ban and assets freeze.

Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the past 20 years in one form of confinement or another - most recently under house arrest in a crumbling lakeside home. The country's regime rarely allows her visitors, and foreigners are not allowed overnight stays in local households without government permission.

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has said she doesn't know Yettaw, did not know of his plans and denied any wrongdoing. She told the court she did not report the intrusion because she did not want Yettaw or anyone else
to get in trouble.

Filed under: Jim Webb
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I could not be anymore happier with Virginia's U.S. Senators Webb and Warner, or W&W as I refer to them.

    August 14, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  2. Rocket

    For all his posturing and chest thumping during his campaign Webb has been a bust. Please do something productive.

    August 14, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. Neutralizer

    I hope Senator Jim Webb can make a difference but knowing the military junta in Myanmar, I doubt he can. I have a lot of respect for Senator Webb, a man with integrity and walks his talk. God bless Senator Webb, I hope after your conversation with the junta they'll set Suu Kyi free. The Burmese people who are in Thailand as refugees wanted to go home to their own country. Senator Webb is the only Democrap have earned my respect, the rest are just plain crap. This man served our country with HONOR and INTEGRITY.

    August 14, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  4. gt

    what a waste of tax payers money... all the problems we have here ,,, give me a break ,,, who really give a hoot about myanmar....

    August 14, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. phoenix86

    Another democrat propping up a tyranical and oppressive regime. When will the learn that their "reaching out" results in increased torture for others?

    August 14, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. They Already Have "Death Panels"; They're Called Health Insurance Company Employees

    Maybe we can trade some Rebirthertea party members for Suu Kyi.
    They'd feel right at home in repressive Burma.

    August 14, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. Butch/Good Newz, VA

    And our Democratic leadership continues meeting with authoritarian governments and leaders. Make sure you bring back notes of governing for Obama!

    August 14, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. Wise Latina

    Webb is wasting his time in a place where people with real influence (India, China) have failed for decades. He must have Obama-syndrome, where if you just sit down, talk softly, and promise the world to them, then they will suddenly change their spots and do what you want. In actuality, like with NKorea, they will then take your money, know that you are a very weak person/country and laugh behind your back. Then we repeat the process expecting a different result.

    So far, Obama has received ZERO results from his ill-advised foreign policy forays.

    August 14, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  9. Lee

    Rocket August 14th, 2009 12:49 pm ET

    For all his posturing and chest thumping during his campaign Webb has been a bust. Please do something productive.

    He has done something productive "Rocket," it's he spearheaded the largest overhall of the MGIB, it's called MGIB "911" bill. Which was badly needed and at first denied by the Republicans. Just ask any veteran.

    August 14, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  10. Eugene

    Sock it to 'em, Jim!

    August 14, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. alvino

    To have a true leader there sure beats a republican showing up and threatening with cowboy diplomacy.

    August 14, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  12. Idiot_Pelosi

    Boon Doggle

    August 14, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. yuri

    Good luck, Jim! It is a jungle out there.

    August 14, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  14. Reading in So. Cal

    Good for Senator Webb. We need more conversations with leaders around the world and less posturing about who is bigger and better.

    August 14, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. Phat Elvis

    Jim Webb is a good guy, but Myanmar is the poster child for regime change. This is a tall order; i hope something good comes out of it.

    August 14, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Really?

    So we don't talk to terrorists but we'll talk to brutal military junta members who kill just as much if not more. Why won't Webb's office say what he's doing there? Seems kind of strange to me...

    August 14, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  17. John, Brooklyn, New York

    I respect Senator Webb and I hope that he has some degree of influence on what is widely regarded as one of the most oppressive governments in the world.

    August 14, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  18. marlene

    Please follow up this story after Sen Webb returns to the United States with information. Why did he think it was important to go as part of his responsibilities as chairman of the foreign relations sub-committee? What did he hope to accomplish? Does the US give money to this country?

    August 14, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. mark

    Jim Webb rocks! We need more Marines like him and Ollly North in politics.

    August 14, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. DZ

    God bless you, Jim Webb, for your efforts and motivation to try to make a difference in this unwelcome corner of the world.
    May your journey and mission be successful!

    August 14, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  21. Patrick

    "Myanmar's top official, junta leader Senior General Than Shwe"?
    Wow! I expect that kind of statement from Fox news, not CNN. Than Shwe is in fact a brutal dictator who has been ruling Burma with an iron fist, murdering hundreds of his own people, for over a decade now. He is not an 'official' in any sense. The official and legal leader of Burma is Aung Suu Kyi. You would never describe Hitler, Franco, or Kim Jong Il simply as a 'top official', would you? Than Shwe siezed power violently and illegally, and murders peaceful protesters (including Buddhist monks) with machine gun fire. Those are facts, not "theories". FYI CNN.

    August 14, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |