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NEWS ANALYSIS

'Friends of the Regime' Meet in New York


By THE IRRAWADDY Tuesday, September 29, 2009


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While Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein’s speech at the United Nations assembly was nothing earth-shattering, his meetings on the sidelines should not be overlooked.

At the invitation of UN Under-Secretary-General Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed, Thein Sein met with US Sen. Jim Webb on Monday.

Burma's Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 28. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Burmese premier and Webb met in Naypyidaw in August during the US senator’s controversial trip to Burma, soon after which the US agreed to a policy of engagement with the Burmese junta.

“I appreciate Ambassador Reed's initiative in arranging this meeting, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with Prime Minister Thein Sein that was begun last month,” Webb said in a statement prior to the meeting.

Ambassador Reed, for his part, is not unfamiliar with the Burmese regime. As a special adviser to former UN chief Kofi Annan and now to Ban Ki-moon, the high-ranking UN official is known to be close to some senior junta officers.

Sources said that Reed met with Gen Maung Aye in 1995 at the UN General Assembly and, in 2002, he attended an event marking United Nations Day in Rangoon as the guest of then Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt.

Ambassador Reed has a Burmese assistant working for him and his strong ties to the regime “cannot be discounted,” warned Maj Aung Lynn Htut, a former intelligence officer who was the second highest ranking Burmese official at the Burmese embassy in Washington until he defected in 2005.

During Aung Lynn Htut’s tenure in Washington, the Burmese embassy agreed to provide a visa to Sen Webb and an American businessman to visit Burma in 2001. Webb visited the country as a private citizen soon after.

Aung Lynn Htut defected to the US after Khin Nyunt was purged by Snr-Gen Than Shwe. He said he feared for his life if he returned to Burma.

He has since revealed that as soon as US President George W Bush came to power in 2001, Burmese and Americans who were sympathetic to the regime hired lobby firms in the US capital to improve the regime’s souring ties with the new US administration.

UN Under-Secretary-General Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed (Source: www.beijingforum.org)

However, when the regime’s thugs attacked and ambushed Aung San Suu Kyi’s convoy in May 2003 in Depayin, the US tightened sanctions instead.

The former intelligence officer said the Burmese military government sent several unofficial delegations to the US in 2001 and 2002 to lobby for an easing of sanctions.

He said that many of the trips were sponsored by Burmese business tycoon Khin Shwe.

In 1997, Khin Shwe hired an American public relations company, Bain and Associates Inc, to improve relations with the US. Khin Shwe’s daughter is married to the younger son of junta no 3 Gen Thura Shwe Mann. In 2007, Khin Shwe was placed on the US sanctions list for his close ties to the regime.

Over the next few years, the ruling Burmese generals also hired lobby groups Jefferson Waterman International and the DCI Group in 1997 and 2001 respectively, in an attempt to soften their public image abroad, in particular by steering the Bush administration away from criticism of the regime’s human rights abuses and the continued detention of Suu Kyi, and to push for lifting US sanctions.

Aung Lynn Htut revealed that around 2001 and 2002 in Washington, the Burmese embassy and intelligence faction hosted several Burmese businessmen, former activists, and foreign scholars, including David Steinberg, Thant Myint-U (the grandson of U Thant), Aye Aye Thant (U Thant’s daughter), Professor Kyaw Yin Hlaing, former CIA officers stationed in Rangoon, and several US businessmen and representatives of oil companies, including UNOCAL.

He said the agenda was always the same—to lift US sanctions and to sideline Suu Kyi.

The regime also invited Japanese diplomats who harbored negative feelings toward the detained opposition leader.



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COMMENTS (16)
 
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Myint Thein, Dallas Wrote:
08/10/2009
U Thant's teenage son, not Tin Myint U, died in a bus accident in Rangoon.
In the early 1990s, Tin Myint U organized a meeting in New York and strongly suggested that he replace Sein Win as Prime Minister of NCGUB. Harn gave me a report of that meeting. Last year, Simon Billenness who was also at that meeting confirmed that it took place.
In January 2003, Aye Aye Thant and her husband visited with Than Shwe in Rangoon. A month later, they allegedly arranged David Rockefeller's visit in Rangoon with Than Shwe.
In May 2003, Than Shwe attempted to assassinate ASSK during the May 30th massacre.

tocharian Wrote:
08/10/2009
To Moe Aung

Thant Myint-U's father Tin Myint-U was a mediocre mathematician who like his father wasn't too successful in the job he was trained for, so like most Burmese, who are part of the Oligarchy, he might have tried his hand in politics. I think he died riding a bus in Burma!

In one of Thant Myint-U's books he translated the old Rakhaing city Mrauk-U as "monkey's eggs." That proves that he doesn't even speak Burmese properly. I'm half Rakhaing and I can tell the difference between Mrauk U: and myauk u.

Moe Aung Wrote:
07/10/2009
I'm afraid the genealogy is relevant since there have been ruling families and political families worldwide past and present. Whether any of them, despite being pretenders to the throne, were any good is a different story altogether. We have the infamous example of General Mahabandula's son as well as quite a few hopeless monarchs.

ASSK herself was hoisted onto a pedestal because she was her father's daughter in the first place. And it's been a hard act to follow for her.

Thant Myint-U's father Tin Myint-U was approached by exiled dissidents after 1988 for a leadership role in Thailand, but he apparently had no stomach or appetite for it. Does his son aspire to a leadership role or that of a kingmaker? Does he, with Dr Zarni, represent the so-called Third Force that the US may wish to hoist upon us like Chalabi or Karzai? If ASSK is to be sidelined, this poses a serious question.

In the end, however much Burmese politics has become part of a new Great Game, it's our fight for our freedom.

Tom Tun Wrote:
02/10/2009
tocharian,
I completely agree with you. The hardest part of our culture and belief to erase is " to respect the whole generations who are and were famous." In other words, the aristocracy of Burma were born under a famous few, such as those you describe. I don't believe tha these people do not understand the true power, the right way to govern, and the justice. However, the people like you, me, KKK, Moe Aung and the whole lot who love our people and country truly have a duty to speak out about jokes that clowns like Thant Myint U and the whole lot. Keep it up, brothers.

tocharian Wrote:
01/10/2009
Why do you have to mention that Thant Myint-U is U Thant's grandson and what does Aye Aye Thant know about politics?

I always thought U Thant was an incompetent UN secretary general and he got the job during the cold war because Burma was a "non-aligned" country and not for any political skills that he had.

Do you have to be a grandson or daughter of some well-known person to have a say in Burma? We have ASSK, and then the daughters of U Nu, U Ba Swe and U Kyaw Nyein forming a party, the exploits of the grandson of Gen. Than Shwe etc. etc.

This is pure Oligarchy. I am sick of this kind of thing in Burma. I am of humble Burmese descent and why should I trust all these children of people who are from the ruling class? Why don't we let Thibaw's descendants rule Burma?

San Aye Wrote:
01/10/2009
Is America a friend of the regime, if so why should Than Shwe ask for lifting of the sanctions? It was not Aunty Suu that told US and European countries to impose sanctions on Burma. It was due to the regime's inhumanity that the West imposed sanctions on Burma. Has there been any progress, are there human rights adopted in Burma, is there any fair and legal status enjoyed by the people, what about health and education, has the junta released all political prisoners let alone Daw Suu Kyi? there are still many more political prisoners kept in remote jails where access is being denied to family members, all of this should be taken into account before the US and European countries lift sanctions, Than Shwe is bargaining and the US is trying to coax him, he will never change his policy no matter what. Well, Senator Webb reaped something out of nothing except that he had seen Aung San Suu Kyi. Is he a broker of the regime

Saya San Wrote:
30/09/2009
Bravo, Irrawaddy for bringing this to light.

Question: Has The Irrawaddy tried to contact Thant Myint-U for comment? I would be most interested to see this happen!

There are so many questions:
1) Did Thant Myint-U attend other similar meetings in the US prior to, or after, this meeting?;
2) Has Thant Myint-U had meetings with any of these actors outside the US (e.g. Burma)?;
3) What was Thant Myint-U’s rationale/justification for being there?;
4) Who approached Thant Myint-U about participating?; and
5) Was he paid any form of compensation or did he receive any financial inducements for his "expertise" or participation?

Please keep pursuing this scandalous, sickening story.

Keep up the great work, Irrawaddy! You are an incredible organization. Bravo.

EKA Wrote:
30/09/2009
Ambassador Reed should resign his post as he is far too close to the fascist regime in Myanmar. A position the UN cannot live with!

Okkar Wrote:
30/09/2009
You can all shout and scream, but know this—the whole opposition has now been sidelined. It is finished! It is the end..

KKK Wrote:
30/09/2009
Who is Thant Myint-U? Is he a CIA or what?

Believe it or not, folks, Joseph Verner Reed is more powerful than UN Secretary-General. He put Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Mr. Kofi Annan, and Ban Ki-moon in his pocket.

That's why he is still working for UN and bullying the people he does not like.

A. Kyaw Wrote:
30/09/2009
It's unbelievable how biased The Irrawaddy magazine can be.

"Friends of the Regime" sure is one hell of a headline, even if it is false. Just goes to show that exiled media can be just as biased and hypocritical as their regime counterparts are.

Eric Johnston Wrote:
30/09/2009
Maj Aung Lynn Htut, whatever his past service to the regime may have been, is now providing invaluable information to those opposing it.

Knowledge of the Christie Island Massacres ... and now this.

There is a strongly anti-democratic element hidden within the powerful elites of all democracies and this is certainly the case with the US. Knowing your enemy, especially the one within, is half the battle.

Such an apt title, "Friends of the Regime". Don't let these people forget who they are!

Tom Tun Wrote:
30/09/2009
The word of US country founder Thomas Jefferson, There must be rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This should be a universal truth.

However, the way that Obama administration is doing business with the people whose hands are soaked with innocent Burmese people blood disgusts me.

I also think what Obama administration doing right now is the opposite of majority American public's will.

Diplomatic ties with the regime is wrong, but searching for diplomatic solutions is right.

Will US government get invloved deeply in changing constitution, governing the proper way, not just Business or Dollars and Cents?

Where is ethics and morality of old US values? Obama administration is not even in 1 year yet, but much of US old value and respect are vanishing at an alarming rate.

Let's see how far Obama's big talking will go. I am deeply worried for the Burmese opposition and for ordinary Burmese people.

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
30/09/2009
Now the cat is out of the bag. Given the fact a guy like Joseph Verner Reed a longtime and bosom crony of the regime harboring personal enmity on Daw Suu now holding a key position at the UN involving in Burma's case today certainly augurs ill for the country's freedom and democracy.

No wonder Steinberg and Thant Myint U have been lobbying for lifting of sanctions and sidelining Daw Suu.

And the South Korean caught a lot of flak lately heeding Reed and Annan left without any results.

No doubt there is a clear and present danger of Daw Suu being taken out of the political picture of Burma not to mention sanctions lifted as well in case Obama heeds Reed and Webb's words in shaping US policy on Burma.

Hence Burma's freedom and democracy hinges on US adhering to its stated demands -free all political prisoners, review military constitution and all inclusive political process - and Daw Suu's role in Burma's future as well.

Anything less is unacceptable as asserting the earth as flat.

kolorama Wrote:
29/09/2009
Yikes! Can it get more yucky than this?

You bet pretty soon, like Iran, Myanmar will also do something bad (worse) again, and sanctions will come on again.

You can't talk to thugs who right now have imprisoned and tortured a Burmese-born US citizen, Kyaw Zaw Lwin.

Why don't you go and rescue this brown skinned US citizen, like you did Yettaw, Sen Webb?

Shame on you, Webb, Reed, Steinberg, Taylor, Kyaw Yin Hlaing, etc. We all knew about their 2001 and 2002 trips. Now it comes from a regime defector it is stronger.

I pity Daw Suu, the political prisoners in Burma, the monks and all those who have suffered and died for true democracy in Burma.

The Obama administration is naive and misled.

Nothing will happen, you will see.

Disgusted.




Yangontha Wrote:
29/09/2009
Who are the "Friends of the Regime”? Could you explain a little bit about this in your next article? Thank you.

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