US Senator in Burma for Talks

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 1:20 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Senator John McCain is in Burma to confer with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to assess the new government's commitment to democratic reforms.

The senator launched his three-day visit Wednesday, meeting with Burmese Vice President Aung Myint Oo in Naypyitaw, the Burmese administrative capital, and plans to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday in Rangoon. An opposition spokesman tells VOA's Burmese service the senator is also slated to meet Thursday with representatives of five small ethnic parties.

McCain told reporters Tuesday in Bangkok that he would urge leaders of the new Burmese government to release an estimated 2,200 political prisoners. He also said he would urge the government not to interfere with a planned tour of Burma's provinces announced this week by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Nobel Peace laureate said she will leave within weeks on the tour, her first since a similar trip in 2003 that ended with her arrest.

In advance of his trip, Senator McCain visited the biggest refugee camp for Burmese in Thailand, at Mae Sot. Tens of thousands of refugees there are waiting either to return home or to be resettled elsewhere.

McCain is a former U.S. Navy pilot who spent six years in a prisoner of war camp during the Vietnam War. He later became a leading advocate of reconciliation between the former enemies.