U.S. Senator Jim Webb met with Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu
Kyi, Saturday, shortly after holding talks with the country's top
During the visit, Webb obtained the release of
U.S. citizen John Yettaw who was sentenced to seven years in prison for
swimming to Aung San Suu Kyi's home.
Webb's office issued a
statement Saturday saying the senator will bring Yettaw out of the
country on a military aircraft that is flying to Bangkok, Thailand on
Webb is the first U.S. Congress member to have
traveled to Burma in an official capacity in more than a decade. He is
the first U.S. official to have met with Burma's leader, General Than
Shwe. His visit comes days after a military court in Burma extended
Aung San Suu Kyi's detention by 18 months for alleged violations of
Both the White House and the State Department say Webb is not carrying any specific message from U.S. President Barack Obama.
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and
Pacific Affairs, has expressed support for lifting sanctions on Burma.
have said his visit confers legitimacy to Burma's military junta. But
supporters say the dialogue helps pressure the regime to release
political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. She has spent 14 of
the past 20 years in some form of detention.
Debbie Stothard of
the Thailand-based rights group Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma told
VOA it is unclear whether Webb's visit will have any real effect. But
she said the release of political prisoners and cessation of
hostilities against ethnic minorities would make a difference.
arrived in Burma Friday after a visit to Laos as part of his two-week,
five-nation tour. The senator is traveling through Asia as chairman of
the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific
Affairs. He flew to Rangoon for the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi
Saturday after talking with General Than Shwe in Burma's administrative
capital, Naypyidaw. Details of either meeting were not released.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.