Burma denies nuclear power plant scheme: Asean nations rally to gain Suu Kyi amnesty

Published: 18/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

Burma's junta has denied it is building a nuclear power plant, US Senator Jim Webb says.

Mr Webb, who met with regime officials at the weekend, said that while he did not discuss the issue directly with Burma's State Peace and Development Council chairman Than Shwe, "it was communicated to me early on that there was no truth to that from a very high level in the government".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed concern about reports that North Korea and Burma were cooperating on nuclear technology.

Mr Webb was the first senior US official to meet with Snr Gen Than Shwe, according to the senator's office.

He met detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and secured the release of US citizen John Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years in jail with hard labour for swimming to her lakeside home in Rangoon and staying there for two days.

Mrs Suu Kyi, 64, was sentenced last week to jail for three years with hard labour, after being found guilty of breaching a detention order by letting Mr Yettaw stay in her home. Her sentence was commuted to 18 months under house arrest.

In Bangkok on Monday Mr Webb met Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Government House. He also met Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya at the Foreign Ministry.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said Mr Abhisit assured Mr Webb the Association of Southeast Asian Nations would not meddle in Burma's internal affairs and would not support any sanction measures against Burma.

Mr Webb told a press conference in Bangkok yesterday he wanted to be careful not to misrepresent Mrs Suu Kyi's views, but it was his "clear impression from her that she is not opposed to lifting some sanctions", and that "there would be some areas she would be willing to look at".

He said the sanctions issue was not specifically raised in his talks with Snr Gen Than Shwe, "although obviously it's the elephant in the bedroom".

Thailand, as the current Asean chair, is spearheading an effort to issue a letter from Asean foreign ministers to call for an amnesty for Mrs Suu Kyi.

Senior Asean officials will meet tomorrow and Thursday in Jakarta to discuss the final draft of the joint letter before sending it to the Burmese junta.

Mr Kasit said no Asean member was opposed to the idea and would like to cooperate even though some members were concerned about the Thai proposal and wanted to look at the final wording.

Mr Kasit went to lobby the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Singapore at the weekend. He also talked by phone with his Cambodian and Vietnamese counterparts yesterday.

Mr Kasit said the release of Mr Yettaw was an "encouraging sign".

"The release of Yettaw gave us hope that the Burmese government might consider on the issue of Mrs Suu Kyi as well," Mr Kasit said.


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