Friday, September 11, 2009

Webb to hold congressional hearing on Burma

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - US senator Jim Webb announced on Thursday that he will hold a congressional hearing on the impact and effectiveness of United States policy on Burma, according to a statement released by his office.

“Senator Webb intends a comprehensive hearing to examine Burma’s current economic and political situation and to seek testimony regarding that country’s long history of internal turmoil and ethnic conflicts,” the statement said.

The announcement came after Webb’s two week long visit to five Southeast Asian nations including Burma, where he became the first US official to visit the military-ruled country in a decade.

During his visit, Webb met the Burmese military supremo Sn. Gen Than Shwe, and was allowed a rare meeting with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He also obtained the release of the American, John William Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years in prison with labour, for intruding into the house of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in early May.

Webb, who is the chair of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is a strong advocate for lifting US sanctions against the Burmese generals.

During his Southeast Asian trip Webb also told leaders of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam that they and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should join together in calling on the Burmese junta to free Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and allow her to fully participate in the 2010 elections.

“The hearing will evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. policy towards Burma, with a focus on U.S.-imposed economic sanctions that have not been matched by other countries, will discuss what role the United States can and should play in promoting democratic reform in Burma, and hear testimony on how to frame a new direction for U.S.-Burma relations,” the statement said.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said the US should wrap up its policy review on Burma immediately and urged it to take the initiative to make the US policy of Diplomacy, Sanctions and Humanitarian aid more meaningful.

HRW, in a report, said delays in announcing its policy could encourage the Burmese generals to think that the US is weakening on its commitment to human rights and pluralism.

The HRW, however, said the US should reconsider generalized sanctions as it hurts the common people and phase it out at an appropriate time but carefully implement targeted sanctions on the military generals of Burma.

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