Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) has begun his 2:30 pm hearing on Burma and a friend emails to report that the room is "packed with Burmese democracy supporters. Taking up the front row are 15 saffron robed monks who traveled from New York and are led by U Pyinya Zawta" -- one of the leaders of Burma's 2007 "Saffron Revolution" that was brutally crushed by the junta. A warrior every bit as much as Webb, U Pyinya Zawta spent more than a decade in prison undergoing torture, solitary confinement, and other brutalities because of his peaceful protests for democratic change. He has castigated Webb calling his approach "ignorant" while other senior democracy activists accuse Webb of "damaging" their movement.
Our friend reports that "more than 50 activists are crammed into the small room wearing neon green 'Burma is not Vietnam' tee shirts" -- a shot at Webb who compares the situation in Burma with that of Vietnam in a bizarre "one-size-fits-all" approach to foreign policy.
Testifying for the administration is Assistant Secreatry of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell. Webb has selected to testify two appeasers and accomodationists: Thant Myint-U who has close ties to the regime, and Dr. David Steinberg, the director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University.
Steinberg is little more than a mouthpiece for the regime and insists the junta has a softer side -- as in, if we just talked to Burma's murderers more, we would understand their feelings and concerns. In fact, Steinberg was so favorable to the regime he was actively recruited by Burma's intelligence service and the embassy here to attend briefings designed to discredit Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the democracy movement. This according to an article published today based on information provided by a junta defector. Thuant Myint-U, also testifying today, was targeted for special attention by the intelligence service as well. Dr. David Williams, a constitutional expert at Indiana University who has worked with Burma's ethnic groups on federalism is also testifying. He enjoys wide respect within Burma's democracy circles.
More to follow...