Myanmar freed an ailing American whom it had sentenced to seven years of hard labor and handed him to an influential U.S senator on Sunday, a move that could help persuade Washington to soften its hardline policy against the military regime.
Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who secured John Yettaw’s freedom, said he believes years of sanctions have failed to move the Southeast Asian country toward democratic reforms or talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Webb said he would discuss his conclusions and recommendations with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others on his return to Washington. He declined to speculate on what the Obama administration — which is reviewing its policy toward Myanmar — would do. Webb can rally support for changes to U.S. policy in Asia as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee.
Webb flew with Yettaw to Bangkok on Sunday afternoon. Yettaw had been held at Insein Prison in Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon since his arrest in early May.