News / Asia

US Envoy Urges Continued Engagement with Burma

Derek Mitchell, left, U.S special envoy to Burma, talks to journalists after meeting with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, in Rangoon, March 14, 2012.Derek Mitchell, left, U.S special envoy to Burma, talks to journalists after meeting with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, in Rangoon, March 14, 2012.
x
Derek Mitchell, left, U.S special envoy to Burma, talks to journalists after meeting with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, in Rangoon, March 14, 2012.
Derek Mitchell, left, U.S special envoy to Burma, talks to journalists after meeting with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, in Rangoon, March 14, 2012.
Michael Bowman
CAPITOL HILL - U.S. engagement with Burma has been fruitful and should continue, said Derek Mitchell, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the first U.S. ambassador to Burma since the early 1990s. Mitchell testified Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is considering his nomination.

Speaking on Capitol Hill, Mitchell paid tribute to political and economic reforms in Burma long advocated by the United States.

“As the Burmese government has taken steps over the past year, so, too, has the United States, in an action-for-action approach," he said. "Each action we have taken in recent months has had as its purpose to benefit the Burmese people and strengthen reform and reformers within the system. This engagement should continue and expand.”

The United States has eased some sanctions against Burma after it embarked on a process of liberalization, highlighted by this year’s landmark parliamentary elections. Democratic Senator James Webb of Virginia marveled at how far Burma has come since he visited the country in 2009.

“The country was locked in isolation, keeping its government, military and people from exposure to the international community," Webb said. "Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest. Numerous other activists remained imprisoned. Conflicts with ethnic minority groups continued and challenged the unity of the country. The prospects for reform, opening up, and economic development looked bleak," he said. "Yet during that visit, one could clearly see the promise of a different future.”

Webb said that promise has become reality, describing recent events in Burma as an “historic turning point."  The senator advocated a level-headed U.S. policy going forward.

“This is a country whose political system remains a challenge, but where positive conduct calls for reciprocal gestures," he said. "We should never take our concerns about political freedoms or individual rights off the table. We should make these concerns central to our engagement with all countries, including Burma. But we should also be promoting economic progress to sustain the political reforms that have taken place," he added.

Derek Mitchell said he and the State Department have “no illusions” about the challenges that lie ahead in Burma.

“As Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton has observed, reform is not irreversible," Mitchell warned. "And continued democratic change is not inevitable. We remain deeply concerned about the continued detention of hundreds of political prisoners and the conditions placed on those previously released, lack of the rule of law, and the constitutional role of the military in the nation’s affairs. Human-rights abuses, including military impunity, continue, particularly in ethnic minority areas,” he said.

Mitchell currently serves as the State Department’s special coordinator for Burma policy. He has also worked for the U.S. Defense Department. Should he be approved by the Foreign Relations Committee, Mitchell’s nomination would then be submitted for a vote by the full Senate.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
June 27, 2012 6:39 PM
Reforms must be encouraged, rules of law must be a condition.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs