News / Asia

US Lawmaker, 2 Diplomats to Visit Burma

Two senior U.S. diplomats and a lawmaker will make separate trips to Burma next week to encourage its new government on its path to reform.

U.S. Congressman Joe Crowley will travel for a two-day visit to Burma on January 12 for talks with government officials, ethnic minority leaders and the main opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.  In the past, Crowley called for tougher sanctions on Burma's former military leaders for their repression of freedom and human rights.  

Derek Mitchell, who has visited the country several times since his August appointment as U.S. special envoy for Burma, will travel there Monday.  In addition to visiting the capital Naypyidaw and Burma's largest city of Rangoon, Mitchell will also travel to Bagan to see microfinance programs and other development work.

Also traveling to the Asian country Monday will be State Department's ambassador-at-large on combating human trafficking, Luis CdeBaca.  The purpose of his trip is to assess the human trafficking situation and ways to help the government's anti-trafficking efforts.  In Naypytaw, he will join Mitchell in discussing steps to address transnational sex trafficking and improve labor conditions.

The U.S. officials' visit to the Southeast Asian country comes on the heels of Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague who ended his two-day visit to Burma this week.  Hague repeatedly urged the new Burmese government, which took over in March, to free all the remaining political prisoners.  Speaking to reporters Friday, Hague said there is no reason for delay.

Video: British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Burma

"It is very important to countries like the United Kingdom, to our partners in the European Union, that the release of prisoners is completed, and that the remaining prisoners are released, and I see no reason for any further delay in releasing those people from jail," said Hague.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma in November.  The flurry of diplomatic activity in Burma started after the new government made significant moves toward democracy.  The new nominally civilian leadership has modified laws that barred opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the political life and has started a dialogue with ethnic minorities.  The leaders also put a halt on a controversial dam project.  But western governments and rights groups insist that Burma must release all political prisoners before sanctions can be lifted.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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