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A second Burmese diplomat defects

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A Burmese diplomat has requested asylum in the United States, apparently in response to a crackdown by his government after the defection of a more senior diplomat earlier this month.

Soe Aung, the fourth-ranking official in the Burmese Embassy in Washington, wrote to the State Department on Wednesday requesting asylum, according to the pro-democracy group U.S. Campaign for Burma. Soe Aung confirmed his defection in a brief interview with the Burmese Service of the Voice of America.

The embassy’s second-ranking official, Kyaw Win, said his own defection July 4 prompted authorities in Burma, also known as Myanmar, to recall Soe Aung and other diplomats for questioning.

Soe Aung was ordered to report with his family to the embassy Wednesday afternoon to be escorted home by a former military official, according to Campaign for Burma Executive Director Aung Din, who has been in touch with Soe Aung and his supporters. Soe Aung could not be reached Wednesday.

In an interview, Kyaw Win said Soe Aung had spoken to him about his fear of returning to Burma. “I felt bad for him, that he was being summoned and being questioned for my earlier decision to defect,” he said.

Embassy officials did not immediately return calls for comment.

The two diplomats seeking asylum both served on the civilian side of the embassy. The Burmese government has been controlled by the military since 1962.

“We are not against the government or against the country,” Kyaw Win said. “But the work we do is increasingly difficult and dangerous. And the military side, they don’t want to listen.”

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