Torture of U.S. Citizen is First Test for New U.S. Policy Towards BurmaSeptember 25, 2009
Shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a shift in U.S. policy towards the oppressive military regime in Burma (Myanmar), new details emerged about a U.S. citizen who was arrested on September 3: Activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin is being held in the infamous and feared Insein Prison, where Burmese authorities tortured him during recent interrogations. The torture and ill-treatment that Kyaw Zaw Lwin suffered included beating and kicking. He has also been denied medical treatment for the injuries he sustained from the torture. He was deprived of food for seven days and moved between different interrogation centers. He was not allowed to sleep at night and was kept awake during interrogation by the authorities. Details of the charges against him are not known.
We put out the following statement today on his case in light of the U.S. administration’s shift in policy:
This is the first test for the United States’ new policy of engagement. Amnesty International hopes that this new engagement also covers protecting human rights in Burma. If Secretary Clinton fails to act, there will be many questions about the United States’ latest strategy to end the oppression of the Burmese people.
In its new approach, the U.S. administration is planning more engagement with the regime, while maintaining sanctions:
(…) we will be using a mix of policy tools. Sanctions remain important, as the Secretary said today, an important tool. By themselves, they have not produced the results we would like, but that does not mean they don’t have value. And also dialogue, as well as continuing things that help the people of Burma – humanitarian assistance, those sorts of things. So going forward, we can expect to use a mix of tools. (…) we think that going forward with a more nuanced approach that focuses on trying to achieve results and that’s based on pragmatism, it increases the chances of success over time.
Recent reports suggest that U.S. officials have protested Kyaw Zaw Lwin’s mistreatment and American officials have visited him in Insein prison last weekend. However, more urgent action is needed.