Second Burmese Diplomat Defects in Washington

Posted July 13th, 2011 at 2:20 pm (UTC-5)
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A Burmese diplomat has defected in Washington, D.C., the second to do so in less than two weeks.

Soe Aung has told VOA's Burmese service that he sent a letter to the U.S. State Department Wednesday morning announcing his decision to defect. He has been serving as the Burmese embassy's first secretary. He was posted there in 2008.

The career diplomat told VOA that he feared for his safety and that of his family, because he had been recalled to be investigated regarding the defection of another diplomat last week.

He said two other Burmese diplomats who have recently returned home from assignments in Washington have been placed under investigation.

Kyaw Win, the deputy chief of mission at the embassy, resigned last week and defected. He told VOA's Burmese Service that he believed Soe Aung and other civilian diplomats are being blamed for his defection, but he says, they were his subordinates. And he says, military and ex-military staff at the embassy are not being investigated.

He says there is a pattern of discrimination against civilian staff at the embassy.

Kyaw Win says he had hoped that following last year's election, Burma's military would ease its grip on power and improve its human rights record. But he says the human rights situation is getting worse, especially in remote areas.

Aung Din, the executive director of the United States Campaign for Burma, says diplomats could face imprisonment and torture if military intelligence authorities decide they have failed in their duties in the Kyaw Win case.

Burma's government has long been considered one of the most repressive in the world. The United States and many other governments have imposed tough economic sanctions on the country because of its human rights record and lack of political reform.

The military described last year's election, the first in 20 years, as key to its plan to return the country to civilian rule after four decades of army leadership. But human rights activists and Burmese refugees say the election simply cemented military control, since an army-backed party won 80 percent of the elected parliament seats.