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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

China-India Border Standoff Continues as Leaders Hold Summit

New Delhi accuses hundreds of Chinese soldiers of illegally entering Indian territory in disputed region of Ladakh More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid