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Sen. Jim Webb Secures Release of American Imprisoned in Myanmar

5 years ago
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It's been a lucky couple of weeks for Americans held captive overseas. Two weeks after Bill Clinton secured the release of a pair of reporters from North Korea, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has succeeded in getting a prisoner freed from Myanmar.

As Ria Misra reported Friday, Webb stopped in Yangon as part of a two-week tour of Southeast Asia, and became the highest-ranking American official to meet with the head of Myanmar's junta, Than Shwe. Saturday the ruling generals agreed to hand over John Yettaw from Missouri, who had been sentenced to seven years of hard labor for swimming uninvited to opposition leader's Suu Kyi's lakeside house.
Webb's office said Yettaw is to be deported Sunday, when he will fly with Webb on a military plane to Bangkok. It was unclear when or how Yettaw would be returning to Missouri.

Yettaw, a Mormon who lives on a military pension from serving in the Army for about a year in 1973, was in Myanmar researching a book he wanted to write about forgiveness, according to his wife. But he also testified during his trial that he swam to Suu Kyi's house in early May to deliver a warning that he had had a "vision" that she would be assassinated.

Webb's office sounded a hopeful note that the release would begin a new era of relations between the U.S. and Myanmar. "It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying a foundation of goodwill and confidence-building in the future," Webb said in a statement.

Webb was also allowed to meet briefly with Suu Kyi, who was sentenced last week to 18 more months of house arrest. She has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years.
Webb described his talk with the democracy icon as "an opportunity ... to convey my deep respect to Aung San Suu Kyi for the sacrifices she has made on behalf of democracy around the world."
Webb, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee. He's also occasionally named as a possible future presidential candidate. His success in Myanmar this weekend can only bolster his reputation as a statesman.
Filed Under: Senate, Foreign Policy

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