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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid