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Myanmar Bars U.S. Ambassador

April 7, 1998

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Myanmar’s military government will not grant the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations permission to visit as long as its leaders are barred from entering America, a government spokesman said today.

Bill Richardson had hoped to visit Myanmar, also known as Burma, as part of a swing through South Asia beginning Saturday that includes Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

``Mr. Richardson is not outrightly refused permission to visit Myanmar,″ said a government spokesman who speaks only on condition of anonymity.

The U.N. ambassador could enter Myanmar if the ban on the country’s leaders entering America was ``either waived or lifted,″ the spokesman said in a fax to The Associated Press.

It was believed that Richardson changed his plans to visit Myanmar after learning of the country’s unwillingness to grant a visa.

Richardson’s staff was not available for comment.

In October 1996, President Clinton issued an executive order barring members of the military government and their families from visiting the United States.

The order was imposed as a largely symbolic protest over the military government’s mass arrests of members of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party the National League for Democracy.

No senior member of Myanmar’s military government, which has ruled the country since 1962, has ever visited the United States.

The military government responded by issuing its own ban on senior U.S. officials visiting Myanmar. It chose not to enforce the ban, however, when several U.S. congressmen and former ambassadors toured Myanmar on junkets sponsored by lobbying groups funded by U.S. oil companies.

Unocal Corp. is a partner in a $1.2 billion gas pipeline in Myanmar. The Los Angeles-based company has been sharply criticized for its involvement in Myanmar, with some ethnic minority people saying they were used as forced labor to build infrastructure for the project.

Unocal had denied the charges.

In 1994, as a Democratic congressman from New Mexico, Richardson was the first non-family member the military government allowed to visit Suu Kyi. She was under six years of house arrest at the time for her campaign to bring democracy to Myanmar.

The military refused his second request to meet her on a subsequent trip in 1995, and he accused the regime of ``repression, regression and retrenchment.″

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