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Cablegate: Burma: Senator Webb's Meeting with Prime

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OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGO #0536/01 2291149
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 171149Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9360
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2233
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 5697
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 9299
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 6880
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 2291
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2671
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 RANGOON 000536

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, AND IO
PACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/16/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM BM
SUBJECT: BURMA: SENATOR WEBB'S MEETING WITH PRIME
MINISTER THEIN SEIN

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Classified By: P/E Chief Jennifer Harhigh for Reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)

Summary
-------

1. (S) During a one-hour meeting with Prime Minister Thein
Sein on August 14, Senator Webb requested a meeting with Aung
San Suu Kyi (ASSK) and urged her release from house arrest,
noting the positive impact it would have on bilateral
relations and Burma's standing in the world. The Senator
also sought the release and deportation of detained American
John Yettaw. Using classic regime rhetoric, the PM
criticized sanctions as harming the economy and hindering
democracy, and explained the regime's roadmap, promising
free, fair and inclusive elections. That said, the Prime
Minister made clear that Burma wants better relations with
the U.S. as well as the ability to communicate directly with
Washington; the regime has tapped Science and Technology
Minister and former Ambassador to the U.S. U Thaung as a
direct line to the GOB. The tone of the meeting was positive
and cordial, with both Senator Webb and the Prime Minister
citing the benefits that improved bilateral relations could
offer if certain issues are resolved. End summary.

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Participants
-------------

2. (U) Codel Webb's August 14 meeting with the Prime
Minister and other GOB Ministers took place at Government
House in Nay Pyi Taw, Burma. Participants included:

Codel Webb:

Senator Jim Webb
Senate Professional Staff Member Marta Mclellan Ross
Charge d'Affaires Larry Dinger
DATT Colonel Brey Sloan
Political/Economic Chief Jennifer Harhigh

Burma:

General Thein Sein, Prime Minister
U Thaung, Minister of Science and Technology
U Nyan Win, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Brig. Gen. Kyaw San, Minister of Information (also spelled
Kyaw Hsan)
Maj. Gen. Khin Aung Myint, Minister of Culture
Col. Thurein Zaw, Deputy Minister, Ministry of National
Planning and Economic Development
Col. Thant Shin, Chief of Staff, Office of the Prime Minister
U Kyaw Kyaw, Director General, Protocol Department, MOFA
U Ye Lwin (notetaker)

Visit, Meeting with Head of State Can Enhance Bilateral
Relationship
--------------------------------------------- -----------

3. (C) PM Thein Sein greeted Senator Webb warmly, noting he
is very impressed with the Senator's achievements. He said
the GOB views the Senator's visit as a very important event,
and noted that the meeting with Senior General Than Shwe,
Burma's head of state, will help enhance the bilateral
relationship. Senator Webb replied that despite the
differences between the U.S. and Burmese governments, under
the right conditions there can be a new road forward. He
hopes for frank discussions. Senator Webb congratulated the
government for taking a step forward and preparing for
elections. Implementation of electoral laws would be an
important signal to the world. With progress on those areas
and the resolution of other issues, it will be possible to
have a new dialogue. The Senator said he understands that
Burma faces challenges and that stability in Burma's
multi-ethnic state is a complicated issue. Webb said he has
talked and written about the need for a new approach on
sanctions with Burma, but noted that events in the last few
months make any change in U.S. sanctions policy difficult.

RANGOON 00000536 002.2 OF 004


Senator Requests ASSK Meeting, Questions her Detention
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (C) Senator Webb asked the PM to allow him to meet with
ASSK as an important signal to the U.S. He questioned the PM
why authorities believe it is necessary to continue ASSK's
house arrest, adding that most of the world judges the GOB by
how it treats ASSK.

5. (C) The PM replied that ASSK's trial is over and that
the verdict was in accordance with the law. ASSK's legal
status is purely a domestic issue. ASSK was given only the
minimum sentence of three years. The SPDC halved that
sentence, and she will be able to serve the remaining
eighteen months at home. If she follows the rules, the
sentence might be further reduced. The PM continued that
UNSYG Ban was not allowed to meet ASSK because her trial was
still underway during his July visit. The situation is
different now, allowing the GOB to accommodate the Senator's
request. Webb reiterated that he is interested in exploring
"a new road" with Burma, and added that from the world's
perspective, it will be very difficult to accept elections as
"open" if ASSK is kept away from the public.

Seeks Deportation of Detained Amcit
-----------------------------------

6. (C) Senator Webb also requested the release and
deportation of American John Yettaw as a goodwill gesture.
He said he does not defend Yettaw's actions, but stressed the
American's ill health. The PM replied that Yettaw has been
punished according to his crimes. The GOB has procedures
that it must follow in such cases, but he pledged that the
government will consider the request positively.

GOB Seeking Better Bilateral Relations
--------------------------------------

7. (C) Turning to bilateral relations, the PM noted that
the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1947,
before Burma's independence. Vice-President Nixon visited in
1958 and again in 1985. Ne Win had an official visit to
Washington in 1966. Senators McCain and Kerry have visited.
Burma received assistance from the U.S. before 1988 for
counternarcotics, security cooperation, poppy eradication,
education, health, and human resources. Post-Nargis, the
U.S. provided generous emergency assistance, for which Burma
is grateful. The GOB is trying to find remains of American
WWII soldiers and repatriate them.

8. (S) Thein Sein stated that Burma believes in peaceful
coexistence and strives for positive relations and good
communications with all countries. In that regard, he
continued, Burma has designated U Thaung, the Minister of
Science and Technology and a former Ambassador to U.S.
(present at the meeting), as the "communicator" for relations
with Washington. The U.S. and Burma had very good relations
before, the PM stated, and the GOB wants to engage in direct
communication and dialogue. Efforts via UN SYG Ban and UN
Special Envoy Gambari have not been direct, the PM said, and
he urged Senator Webb to "please tell the U.S. Government"
that Burma wants direct relations with the U.S. (Note:
Separately, Director General for Protocol Kyaw Kyaw told the
Charge that U Thaung can be available for direct conversation
with Washington. End note.) The PM also proposed the two
countries upgrade their representation to Ambassadors in both
capitals.

Stability, Security Shape Regime's Outlook
------------------------------------------

9. (C) The PM avoided polemics, but nevertheless repeated
traditional regime rhetoric regarding Burma's diverse ethnic
background and the resulting need for stability and security.
The regime is doing its best to solve problems and educate

RANGOON 00000536 003.2 OF 004


the people about democratic practices, he said. The
government must take an all-inclusive approach; the focus
should not be on one individual or organization. Security,
development, human rights, and democracy are all related.
Burma must have security and stability for peace and
tranquility, he stressed.

PM Calls for Investment, Criticizes Sanctions
---------------------------------------------

10. (C) Turning to economics, the PM noted that the
worldwide financial crisis and sanctions were taking a toll
on Burma's economy. Burma has an agricultural base and
produces enough rice to feed its people and export a surplus.
However, beyond food security, Burma needs industrialization
to develop. The country has natural resources, he stated,
but needs outside investment and technology. Western
sanctions create more poverty, hinder the development of
democracy, and create hatred of the West. Economic
development will lead to political stability and democracy.

Elections Will be Free, Fair, Inclusive
---------------------------------------

11. (C) The PM explained the regime's "Roadmap to
Democracy," saying Burma has learned the lesson of Iraq and
Afghanistan: don't move toward democracy in haste. The
constitution had been approved by 92.48 percent of the
people. Planned elections in 2010 will be free, fair, and
inclusive, he insisted. Political party and election laws
will be issued soon. All "eligible" parties will be able to
participate. The PM invited Senator Webb to return for
another visit and to tell President Obama "we wish him very
well."

Senator Webb: U.S. and Burma Can Work Together
--------------------------------------------- --

12. (C) Senator Webb responded by citing the Obama
Administration Burma policy review and noting that he had had
many discussions about Burma with then-Senators Clinton and
Obama. He came to Burma now to help shift bilateral
relations to a different path. The U.S. and Burma have all
the ingredients for a natural friendship once certain issues
are resolved. Both were colonized by the British, both have
many nationalities. Diversity is a challenge but also a
strength. The Senator said he is aware of the situation
inside Burma since 1947, which has been complicated for a
long time by China. U.S. and Burma can work together, and the
U.S. can provide balance in the region.

13. (C) Senator Webb acknowledged the PM's point that a
country needs development to foster democracy. He referred
to Vietnam, where he had helped by serving as a bridge
between the government and U.S.-based Vietnamese. He had
observed parallels between Burma and Vietnam during his 2001
personal visit to Burma. He noted that one of his friends
had closed his business in Burma because of sanctions,
putting people out of work. Burma's citizens could have a
better life if relations were better. The Senator concluded
by reiterating that the GOB must address a number of issues
to gain the trust and support of the United States. The PM
again thanked the Senator for visiting and added "we will
consider your points."

Biographic Note
---------------

14. (C) U Thaung is currently Minister for Science and
Technology. He served as Ambassador to the U.S. from
1991-1996, and has also served as Ambassador to Canada. He
is a former Minister of Labor and Minister of Industry-1 and
has held various GOB positions related to mining and
industry. He reportedly graduated from the same Defense
Service Academy class as Vice Senior General Maung Aye and is
believed to have served with Senior General Than Shwe in the

RANGOON 00000536 004.2 OF 004


Psychological Warfare Department. Many observers consider
him a regime insider with close ties to those two senior
leaders.

15. (SBU) Codel Webb declined the opportunity to clear on
this message.
VAJDA

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