Another Burmese Diplomat Defects

The move comes 10 days after a top official of the Burmese embassy in Washington defected and sought US asylum.

Burma's President Thein Sein inspects a military parade during a visit to Beijing, May 27, 2011. The former general has not forged ahead with democratic reforms.

Another senior diplomat at the Burmese embassy in Washington has defected and applied for political asylum in the United States, a dissident familiar with the case said Wednesday.

Embassy First Secretary Soe Aung Wednesday morning expressed to the U.S. State Department "his desire to apply for political asylum in the United States," Aung Din, the executive director for the U.S. Campaign for Burma, told RFA.

Aung Din said he had spoken with Soe Aung, a 32-year career diplomat who had served in Geneva, Bangkok, and Singapore. He was posted to Washington in 2008.

His defection comes 10 days after that of Kyaw Win, the embassy's deputy chief of mission, who told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter that his efforts to push for reform were rejected by his government and that he feared prosecution if he returned home.

Soe Aung, who could not be immediately contacted, was told by the Burmese regime on Tuesday to return home with his family within 24 hours for a possible investigation, Aung Din said.

"After Kyaw Win announced his defection on July 4, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the regime has set up a departmental enquiry with former military officials, who are holding senior positions at the foreign ministry," he said.

"Soe Aung will be interrogated ... when he returns and action may be taken by the regime," Aung Din said, adding that punishment could range from job termination at a minimum to imprisonment at a maximum.  

Ordered to return home

Soe Aung had been asked to return the house he was staying in with his family to the embassy on Tuesday and to leave for Burma with his family the same day.

The Burmese regime had assigned an official to escort him and his family to Burma and supervise his return.

"It is possible that more defections of the regime's diplomats will be coming soon," Aung Din said.

"Many civilian diplomats of the regime are beginning to lose their hope of seeing freedom, justice, and democracy in their country and are not willing to serve under a military regime disguised as a civilian government, and are not willing to defend the regime in the international community."

Deputy Chief of Mission Kyaw Win, 59, had told RFA that he made the decision to leave the government because he saw little hope for Burma’s future and because he feared “my life and those of my family are in danger.”

He called for “highly targeted financial sanctions against the government and their cronies that serve to keep them in power.”

The Burmese government has been accused of numerous human rights violations, including murder, torture, rape, forced labor, and the use of child soldiers.

Reported by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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