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Viewing cable 09RANGOON536, BURMA: SENATOR WEBB'S MEETING WITH PRIME

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09RANGOON536 2009-08-17 11:11 2010-12-12 21:09 SECRET Embassy Rangoon
VZCZCXRO4173
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 

RANGOON 00000536 001.2 OF 004 


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. 

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