For the first time in nine years, the United States allowed Burma's foreign minister to come to Washington, a sign of softening U.S. policy toward the military junta that has run that Asian nation for nearly five decades.
Maj. Gen. Nyan Win quietly arrived in Washington on Friday night and left the next day after meetings with members of Burma's embassy, a U.S.-Asian business council and Sen. James Webb, the Virginia Democrat who has advocated closer ties to the junta, according to Kyaw Win, a spokesman for the embassy. The foreign minister also took in some sightseeing, visiting the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A State Department spokesman said Nyan Win did not meet with any U.S. officials.
I guess I would have assumed that a United States Senator is a "U.S. official," but never mind that. Let's remember why Burma has been under sanctions all these years. Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard explains:
All senior members of Burma's military junta are banned from visiting Washington except for very specific international meetings. Nayan Win would certainly fall into the category of a senior official. The visa ban went into effect under President Clinton, who implemented the restrictions in October 1996 against the so-called Law and Order Restoration Council -- an Orwellian term the junta decided to drop in favor of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997.
On October 1, 2007, President Bush announced that because of ongoing repression he was adding more than three dozen military officials, political leaders of the Union Solidarity Development Association (the junta's paramilitary thugs), and their families to the visa-ban list.
What is the reason for these sanctions, you might ask?
Granting a waiver for Nyan Win to visit Washington is a diplomatic coup for a regime that is continuing, as this is being written, a military offensive against ethnic groups that has already resulted in more than one million internally displaced refugees and tens of thousands more pouring over the border into China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh; more than 3,200 villages burned, and most heinous -- the use of rape as an instrument of war against women. The regime is actively engaged in war crimes. This is in addition to the oppression of Burma's democratic freedom fighters and the everyday killings and murders that are standard regime fare. If a Burmese official of comparable rank has visited Washington in the last 20 years, no one I talked to can remember it.
Clearly, Nyan Win is a guy that has blood on his hands. He is a Major General in the Burmese Army. He has participated in meetings where junta plans were discussed and approved -- including those dealing with suppression of democratic rights and the plotting of violence against ethnic groups the regime considers hostile. He designed the diplomatic blueprint for convincing the international community to swallow the regime's campaign of terror. He is Burma's von Ribbentrop.
Honestly, I don't get it. What do we gain from this? Somebody help me out on this one.