Former US diplomat Bill Richardson meets Myanmar leader

Nov 2, 2021, 6:18 AM | Updated: 6:47 am

BANGKOK (AP) — Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, on a humanitarian mission to strife-torn Myanmar, met Tuesday with the head of the Southeast Asian nation’s military-installed government.

Myanmar’s Information Ministry said Richardson held discussions with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing about prevention and control of COVID-19. Also present were the ministers of foreign affairs, health and international cooperation, it said. The meeting was shown on the evening news broadcast of state television MRTV.

Richardson’s mission was announced Sunday by his office, which quoted him as saying he is “visiting the country to discuss pathways for the humanitarian delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, medical supplies, and other public health needs.”

However, his mission has also raised hopes that Richardson will seek the release of U.S. journalist Danny Fenster, who has been jailed in Myanmar for the past five months.

Myanmar’s health care system is largely broken amid widespread resistance to the military’s ouster in February of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Medical personnel have been at the forefront of the opposition to military rule.

The situation is exacerbated by Myanmar’s poverty and increasingly fierce fighting between the government and pro-democracy insurgents in various parts of the country.

“Governor Richardson believes that, in moments of crisis and instability such as this one, we must ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered to those most in need,” his office said in a statement.

Detained journalist Fenster, who is from the greater Detroit area, is charged with incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information. The offense is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Fenster, managing editor of the Yangon-based online news magazine Frontier Myanmar, is also charged with association with unlawful associations, which carries a two-to-three year prison term. The U.S. government and media freedom organizations have been pressing for his release, as well as that of other journalists detained since the army’s takeover.

The State Department said Richardson is making the trip on his own but that it hopes he can help convince Myanmar’s leaders to allow the entry of aid for the coronavirus pandemic and other urgent needs. The U.S. government, like other Western nations, has avoided sending officials to Myanmar because it does not want to be seen as recognizing the legitimacy of the military’s seizure of power.

“While this is not an effort sponsored by, or on behalf of, the United States government, we hope his trip contributes to improved humanitarian access,” it said in a statement Monday.

Richardson, who has also served as governor of New Mexico and secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, has a record of acting as a sort of freelance diplomat.

He is best known for traveling to nations with which Washington has poor, if any relations — such as North Korea — to obtain the freedom of detained Americans.

Recently he has been involved in seeking freedom for U.S. citizens detained in Venezuela, another country with which Washington has strained ties.

Richardson has a long history of involvement with Myanmar, starting in 1994 when as a member of Congress he met Suu Kyi at her home, where she had been under house arrest since 1989 under a previous military government.

He last visited Myanmar in 2018 to advise on the crisis involving the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after Myanmar’s military in 2017 launched a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the western state of Rakhine, where most lived.

The crackdown included rapes, killings and the torching of thousands of homes, and was termed ethnic cleansing by global rights groups and the U.N.

Richardson accepted Suu Kyi’s invitation to join an advisory board on the crisis, but then resigned, calling it a “whitewash and a cheerleading operation” for Suu Kyi after an argument with her.

In reaction to this year’s army takeover, he urged the Biden administration and the international community to strongly condemn the “anti-democratic” coup and “impose crushing international sanctions as soon as possible.”

But while calling for Suu Kyi’s safety, he also described her as ” complicit in the atrocities conducted by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace speaks to members of the media outside federal court, Wednesday, June 29,...
Associated Press

Feds opens sweeping probe into work of NYPD sex crimes unit

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the New York Police Department’s treatment of sex crime victims after concluding there is “significant justification” to do so and after receiving reports of deficiencies for more than a decade, prosecutors said Thursday. Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, […]
11 hours ago
FILE - People look on from the super yacht Amadea as it arrives to the San Diego Bay Monday, June 2...
Associated Press

Treasury blocks $1 billion trust owned by Russian oligarch

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department said Thursday it has blocked a $1 billion Delaware-based trust connected to sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Abusaidovich Kerimov. The move comes after the U.S. seized a $325 million superyacht — the 348-foot-long Amadea — tied to Kerimov earlier this month. The size of the trust and the complexity of […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Anti-Roe justices a part of Catholicism’s conservative wing

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade at a time when it has an unprecedented Catholic supermajority. That’s not a coincidence. Nor is it the whole story. The justices who voted to overturn Roe have been shaped by a church whose catechism affirms “the moral evil of every procured abortion” and whose U.S. bishops have […]
11 hours ago
People wait in a TSA line at the John F. Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, i...
Associated Press

All eyes on airlines as July Fourth holiday weekend nears

DALLAS (AP) — Airlines that have stumbled badly over the last two holidays face their biggest test yet of whether they can handle big crowds when July Fourth travelers mob the nation’s airports this weekend. Problems were popping up well before the weekend, with some disruptions caused by thunderstorms that slowed air traffic. American Airlines […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Italy's Matteo Berrettini wears a mask at the end of the third set during the men's singles ...
Associated Press

COVID-19 at Wimbledon: 3 top-20 men out after positive tests

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic famously decided not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — which prevented him from playing at the Australian Open in January following a legal saga that ended with his deportation from that country, and, as things currently stand, will prevent him from entering the United States to […]
11 hours ago
The Supreme Court's newest justice adds to the court's diversity but also has much in common with h...
Associated Press

Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in to the Supreme Court on Thursday, shattering a glass ceiling as the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court. The 51-year-old Jackson is the court’s 116th justice, and she took the place of the justice she once worked for. Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement took effect […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Former US diplomat Bill Richardson meets Myanmar leader