News / Asia

Burmese Diplomat Defects, Cites Fears for Safety

Multimedia

Audio

For the second time in less than two weeks, a senior Burmese diplomat has defected.  He says he feared for his safety after being recalled to Burma.

Soe Aung, the Burmese embassy’s first secretary in Washington, sent a letter to the U.S. State Department on Wednesday declaring that he wanted to defect. He later told VOA’s Burmese Service that he fears for his safety and that of his family.

He had been ordered to return to Burma for an investigation into last week’s defection of another diplomat. Soe Aung said he was told on Tuesday that he must return to Burma within 24 hours, accompanied by a military official. His and his wife’s diplomatic passports had been confiscated. Soe Aung told VOA that two other diplomats already have been called back to Burma and placed under investigation.

Kyaw Win, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission, defected last week. He says he defected because his efforts to push for reform had been rejected and that he feared he would be prosecuted in Burma. Kyaw Win told VOA on Wednesday he had hoped that following last year’s election, Burma's military would ease its grip on power and improve its human rights record.

Listen to VOA interview with Kyaw Win

He says the human rights situation in Burma is getting worse, especially in remote areas. Kyaw Win says that in 1998, the military leaders promised change, but it never happened. He adds that in 2004, new leaders talked about changes, but it never happened.

Kyaw Win says he thinks Soe Aung and other civilian diplomats are being blamed for his defection, but that they were his subordinates. He says military and ex-military staff at the embassy are not being investigated.

Aung Din is executive director of the United States Campaign for Burma, a rights group based in Washington. He says diplomats could face stiff punishment, if Burmese military authorities decide they failed in their duties in the Kyaw Win case.

“He will be severely tortured, and he will be sent to the military tribunal for imprisonment," said Aung Din. "So I believe that he or she will have a great danger when he or she returns back to Burma.”

Burma's government has long been considered one of the most repressive in the world.  The United States and many other governments have imposed tough economic sanctions on the country because of its lack of political reform.

The military described last year's election, the first in 20 years, as a key element of a plan to return the country to civilian rule after four decades of army leadership. But critics of the government say the vote solidified military control because an army-backed party won 80 percent of the elected parliament seats.

Aung Din of United States Campaign for Burma says there could be more defections in the coming months, in part, because the new foreign minister is replacing many career civilian diplomats with people he trusts. But he also says some diplomats might feel the way Kyaw Win does. 

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs