Myanmar envoy seeks asylum, U.S. pressure on rulers

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 05, 2011 6:39 PM
Myanmar envoy seeks asylum, U.S. pressure on rulers

By Paul Eckert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The No. 2 diplomat in Myanmar's embassy in Washington is seeking asylum in the United States because the reports in which he outlined his government's failures have put him in danger, he said on Tuesday.

Career diplomat Kyaw Win sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter before dawn July 4 spelling out his disillusionment with the lack of reform in the Southeast Asian nation also known as Burma, he told Reuters.

"Sometimes when you report the facts, they don't like it," Win said in a telephone interview, describing his efforts to persuade the junta that has ruled Myanmar for five decades that their repression and corruption hurt their country's image.

"They would write back: 'why are you doing these kind of things?'" Win said of officials in the capital, Naypyidaw.

Myanmar's ruling military junta handed power to a nominally civilian government in March after elections last November that were widely dismissed as a sham. The elections were intended to create the impression of a democratic transition after 49 years of direct army rule.

Win said he sought "to tell them that what they are doing is not right and we need work out some way to put our country together."

"Because of their lack of exposure and education, they have no capacity to understand what's happening in the world," he said.

The 31-year veteran of his country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote Clinton that "my reports suggesting of actions to improve bilateral relation(s) between Myanmar and the U.S. have been continually rejected and resulted in my being deemed dangerous by the government."

"Because of this, I am also convinced and live in fear that I will be prosecuted for my actions, efforts and beliefs when I return to Naypyidaw after completing my tour of duty here," read the letter, made available by a Burmese exile group and confirmed as accurate by Win.

NO REAL CHANGES

State Department officials confirmed receipt of the letter, but declined further comment. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it does not comment on asylum cases.

Win, 59, said he was safe in a suburb of Washington with his wife and two adult sons. He tendered his resignation to his embassy at the same time he wrote Clinton, he said.

Win, the second Myanmar deputy chief of mission to seek asylum in Washington since 2005, echoed critics who say the civilian government is under the tight grip of the same generals who plundered the country's economy and stifled political freedom.

"We are told of things changing, but there's nothing there," he said.

"Two or three generations are already lost," lamented Win. "How can we keep going like this? We can't."

Win arrived at his post in 2008 charged with building bridges between his isolated country and U.S. society.

Now he favors getting tougher with the powers that rule Myanmar and control its resources, tightening some of the sanctions Western states have long imposed on the country.

"We can pressure them to do many things, with specifically targeted sanctions on the government officials and the people who work with them, the businessmen and cronies," said Win.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)