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Dozens of Monks Crash Webb's Junta Love-In

11:48 AM, Sep 30, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Senator Jim Webb is holding his much-anticipated hearing on the Obama administration's Burma policy today and Burma's democratic opposition is crashing the event in a likely futile attempt to shame the Virginia senator for his coddling of the junta. The press release says that "In a sign of protest against U.S. Senator Jim Webb, dozens of Buddhist monks will attend a hearing on U.S. Burma policy....Webb was recently defeated in his drive to unilaterally lift U.S. sanctions on Burma's military regime, after the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the United States would maintain sanctions on Burma unless the country's military regime made concrete steps toward democracy." They go on,

Webb did not invite anyone from Burma's democracy movement to testify at the Burma hearing -- including no Buddhist monks or members of the political party of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. Webb exclusively invited participants who share his views on Burma, preventing a full discussion of policy options on the country. With great disappointment for the absence of monks or members of Burma's democracy movement in the hearing, two prominent monk groups, International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO) and All Burma Monks' Alliance (ABMA) have submitted written testimonies to Senator Webb.

The written testimony that the monks have submitted to Webb's committee includes an op-ed by U Pyinya Zawta, who spent 10 years as a political prisoner and is executive director of the All Burma Monks' Alliance. His article was originally published in Irrawaddy and Zawta is asking that be included in the hearing record. It concludes:

Webb is now despised by the people of Burma. If he succeeds in achieving a shift in US policy to abandon sanctions, he will have secured his place in history as one of the most important supporters of Than Swe's military dictatorship.

How did Webb end up on the side of the junta and against the people of Burma? Why is Webb spending his weekends with the war criminals that control that regime while the people of Burma plead for him to stand down? On behalf of what constituency is Webb acting, or is this simply a misguided and botched attempt by Webb to leave his mark on some area of U.S. foreign policy?

We will have reports from the hearing later today...and you can read the testimony submitted by the monks here and here.