Saturday, August 15, 2009

Burmese Military Junta to Release Yettaw After Meeting with Webb

Those who trumpet U.S. engagement with brutal regimes are undoubtedly singing its merits after the Burmese military junta agreed to release John Yettaw tomorrow following a meeting between General Than Shwe and Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb.

Yettaw had recently been sentenced to seven years of hard labor after he swam unto Aung San Suu Kyi's property last May. His unwanted presence, just two weeks before Suu Kyi was due to be released from house arrest, gave the military junta grounds to extend her captivity for another 18 months.

While I am pleased that Yettaw will be returning home I don't think for a minute that he was released either out of the kindness of General Shwe's heart or because Senator Webb is particularly persuasive. General Shwe wasn't going to let go of Yettaw without getting something in return. What exactly the military junta got isn't clear but you can be sure they got something. But whatever that something was it wasn't sufficient to secure Suu Kyi's release.

We here at IC aren't huge fans of the BBC. But the Beeb, nonetheless, does have an analysis of Webb's visit as well as the ongoing political situation there that is worth reading. For instance, I was not aware that as part of the so-called constitutional reforms last year there is a new provision banning those who are or were married to foreigners from seeking public office. It just so happens that Suu Kyi was married to a Briton who has been dead for more than a decade.

I'm sure if Suu Kyi owned a collection of Beatles albums the military junta could see to it that the constitution be amended to include a provision banning those who own a copy of Yellow Submarine from participating in next year's "elections."

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